Results tagged “blogging”

This is why I blog

My desk, today.

Nick Crocker:

To know what you think, write it down. Forcing myself to write something down, to structure it, to let it see light is the best way for me to clarify what I actually think about something.

It's from a list of 30 things he's learned, and unlike most such things, it's pretty good.

Euan Semple captured what happens after that:

Secondly, by sticking it out there magic happens. People either reinforce your idea, modify it, disagree with it or just take it in and mull it over. All of these are worthwhile. Just being seen to know things and be thoughtful about your work is good for your career. But beyond this your ideas get tested, they get expanded, you can adapt. This is a powerfully evolutionary idea. We get to test and improve our thinking in real time.

So, this is why I blog.

Martin Belam:

And despite the die-hard afficianados, RSS is no longer a key content distribution channel.

Of course, with some amusement, I read this in my RSS reader of choice.

He's right in that RSS never became a mainstream means of consumption (indeed, I'd argue that it never really was a key content distribution channel), but wrong in that, for those of us who live or die by the information we find, consume and process in various ways, it's still a vital tool.

And one that's not as small as you might think. From a recent post on The Digital Reader, marking the year's anniversary of the demise of Google Reader:

In 3 weeks Feedly grew from 4 million users to 7 million, eventually growing to 15 million users and 24,000 paying customers in February 2014 and earning the crown of leading Google Reader replacement.

15 million (on one service alone) is a decent chunk of die-hard aficionados.

Mary needs to be shorter

Mary Hamilton:

It’s something I’d like to do more of here – sharing interesting links with a paragraph or two’s analysis.

Gah.

Why would anyone do that? :-)

(Other than providing useful, contextualised links for people, which is where blogging started. It also makes a great "outboard brain" notebook of reference links…)

Sunset over the Adur

I just wrote a post for NEXT Berlin which has provoked a little more reaction than normal. I admit - it's a more touchy subject than most, encompassing both a missing plane, and thus many lives at risk or lost. And it takes a side-swipe at the obsessions of the tech business right now. But despite the not entirely positive reaction, I'm pretty pleased with it, because it encompasses a lot of what I believe about blogging, both in terms of process and in terms of exploring ideas.

First of all, on the process front, it reflects one of my cardinal rules of doing blogging well: connect the impetus to blog with the action to implement as soon as possible.

I was procrastinating slightly about posting, because I wasn't massively enthused about the subject I'd come up with, and then I came across Mary's Facebook post, and the appropriate neurones leapt up of the cognitive couch, brushed the metaphorical pizza crumbs from their notional chests and went to work.

Why did this get me interested? Well, it invoked two of the things I feel strongly about:

1. Get out of the bubble

This is a serious one. I've talked before how I find the intra-journalist discussion about the digital future amazingly dull compared the the conversation happening at the intersection of journalism and everything else. That problem - the echo chamber of like-minded people talking to themselves is everywhere, and it holds us back. When you only look inwards, you keep finding the same old answers.

I feel that the internet of things - as a concept - is locked into that right now. Lots of people borrowing ideas off each other, but basically ending up with the same bunch of products.

This is one of these stories where two worlds come together to make a very interesting possibility. Mash together aviation - and its obsession to safety detail - and the efficient communications skills of the internet of things movement, and you have a very interesting potential partnership. If I could introduce the problem from one side of the fence to potential providers on the other, how could I resist?

Was the timing wrong? I don't know. If you have this conversation long after the event, then you get no traction for the ideas. In a sense, I was taking my cue from the aviation community, which certainly seemed to think that this was an appropriate time to discuss these matters.

2. Time for tech to grow up

The move to mobile and apps is great and everything - but isn't there more than this? It feels like the grand tech juggernaut has ground to a halt and has got utterly distracted by finding new ways for us to play games and chat to each other in increasingly simplified ways. Both of these are admirable things in their worn right. But is that really what we're going to use all this great tech for?

OK, I'm overstating the case. Interesting things are being done outside the startup/apps/VC economy, but you wouldn't know it from the the tech press right now. I think that needs to change. I think we need to puncture that happy little tech bubble, and start looking more deeply at how it really impacts life outside that sphere.

But right now, it's past 11pm, I have to be up early in the morning to deliver a day's training, so I'll leave further exploration of that idea for another day.

This is the seventh in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I'm going to try to write through March.

sunrise-over-the-waterside.jpg

So, here's a question. Why am I putting myself through the horror of trying to write something substantive for this blog every single day in March?

Leaving aside the possibility of an unexplored masochistic streak, the fundamental reason is because I want to. I like blogging. I love it, in fact. It's been nearly 13 years since I discovered it as a medium and it shifted my world around completely. I'm a busy man, though, trapped between a hectic four-day-a-week consultancy career (long may that "hectic" last) and the demands of being 50% of the available parenting resource for a little girl who has hit the toddler years fast and hard, and is accelerating towards the terrible twos as quickly as she possibly can.

The 40s are a problem for modern couples:

The modern 40s are so busy it's hard to assess them. Researchers describe the new "rush hour of life," when career and child-rearing peaks collide.

Sell, Sell, Self

This blog has got pushed to the sidelines repeatedly since I became a free agent and a Dad, and the closest thing I have to a New Year resolution this year is to rectify that. There are prosaic, financial reasons behind that: my blog remains my showcase, the source of much of my work, and without it I'm essentially doing very little marketing right now (my workload is leaving little room for the round of coffees and lunches that make up my self-promotion). The busy period will end - and I need something there to keep me in people's minds.

However, it's also the place where I crystallise my ideas about the subjects I follow. Some of that "writing myself into existence" has transferred into my lecturing and training, where I've been forced into developing a new language around some of my areas of expertise just so I can communicate them effectively - and that's a subject I intent to return to this month - but my blog still remains the most compelling way of doing so. Why? Well, because I can expose my ideas to the criticism of my peers - and that's incredibly useful in making sure I'm talking something that approximates to sense.

Blogito Ergo Sum.

The Inspiration

Also, some people have been doing something similar, and that lodged the idea in my head. MG Siegler kicked off the year doing something like this. The Man Mayfield pushed me into subscribing to Dan Hon's current experiment in daily mailings (leading to his probable nervous breakdown given the volume he produces) has been a daily(ish) prod to my own conscience.

Besides, a couple of recent posts which have garnered good engagement (and I feel dirty using that word) have reminded me that it's the personal stuff that makes a blog fly. Be it photos from the US, or an insight into an advert I ended up appearing in, that kind of material makes a blog engaging and human in the way some links and commentary doesn't.

I seem to need to relearn - or, at least, reinforce in myself - these kinds of lessons every few years. That's no bad thing, because it also forces me to check and re-evaluate what I know in the light of changes that have happened over that period. After over a decade's blogging, it would be horribly easy to get into a rut - and I don't want to do that.

The Rebellion

Somehow, over the last six months, I've slipped into being predominantly a trainer. The majority (but not the entirety) of my work has been teaching other people stuff. That's great, as far as it goes. It pays well - very well, at times - and is something I seem to be good at. There's also a pretty evident gap in the market for someone with my particular skill set, which works well for me.

I don't want too walk too far down that path, though. I enjoy both the strategic consulting and the content creation aspects of my work, too, and I'm going to be putting some more effort into landing that kind of work in the coming months. In the meantime, though, it's important to do as well as teach. And this blog is the place where I can do whatever the hell I want - even a stupid writing project when I'm far too busy already.

This is the second in a series of one-a-day substantive posts I'm going to try to write through March.

This is our web

Zeldman:

Yes, recycling other people’s recycling of other people’s recycling of cat gifs is fun and easy on Tumblr. Yes, rubbing out a good bon mot on Twitter can satisfy one’s ego and rekindle a wistful remembrance of meaning. Yes, these things are still fine to do. But they are not all we can do on this web. This is our web. Let us not surrender it so easily to new corporate masters.

Seems to resonate with what Kevin Marks was saying last week…

There's more to lists than you think:

Umberto explained in an interview that lists are often seen as relics of primitive cultures--simplistic devices that don’t belong in our modern day and age. However, the simple form of the list prevails again and again over time, because, as Umberto says, it has “an irresistible magic.”

Until I read this, I thought a list was just a list, but t's actually a way we start to define reality around us in a way we can handle. I wonder if this makes blogging as a way of writing ourselves into existence a natural successor - or descendent, at least - of lists?

A Markdown link selection

This is really handy to know:

If you are publishing to a blog system that does not recognize Markdown, and you can’t for example install a custom WordPress plugin to facilitate such recognition, you will need to see that your Markdown content is converted to HTML before publishing.

Starting in MarsEdit 3.6, a new per-blog option makes it easy to automatically convert Markdown content to HTML when you publish to a blog.

I've really got into the swing of writing in Markdown, and this allows me to use it even when writing for companies that don't have it installed in their WordPress server.

As for my own WordPress installs (including the one that will host this blog, as soon as I have the spare time to do the move), and an install of Ghost:

And...back

Bar at the IBIS OstbanhoffRight now, I'm in the foothills of the most scarily busy phase of my consulting life since a few weeks back at the beginning of the year. My diary is looking pretty solid, bar a few gaps for content/consulting work that's home office based until, well, probably December.  That's lovely for security of income and planning, but rather bad for my blog.

Right now, I'm in a brief lull between getting back from Berlin, doing a frantic day's desk work and admin, before I go into another two days of a big training project I'm co-delivering with Neil Perkin

The big lessons I learnt from the last busy period were:

  • Don't stop networking
  • Don't neglect your shop front

So, here I am, getting myself going on the blog again. And on point two... anyone fancy a coffee? 

Dave Mascord

When you sit down to write it's all too easy to just start typing immediately, which means you'll be doing you're thinking on-screen. Instead, take a few moments to plan your piece. It should make the editing process easier too, which will save time overall.

I'd agree with that - and it applies to blogging as much as any other form of writing. However, there's one proviso. If you find that structure isn't working, don't be afraid to trash it and rework what you've got. Sometimes the story in your head doesn't work on screen.

Is Medium just a content farm?

Is glossy, exciting new blogging site Medium just a content farm?

But it all neatly glosses over one ugly fact: Medium is just an upscale version of the same old business model used by shady content farms the world around. And it contributes to an environment where the most important element in creating written content — the writer — is undervalued and uncompensated.

Two immediate things occur:

  1. We don't actually know what Medium's business model is yet
  2. Their idea of per paragraph commenting really, really works, as that post demonstrates

There's something interesting at work with Medium, and I wouldn't be too quick to stand in judgement upon it just yet.

I've had access to a posting account for a little while now - perhaps I should get around to using it.

The blogging desk

Once upon a time - and it feels like a long time ago - it was my job to get people blogging. I took poor, ink-stained wretches from their journalistic bunkers, and introduced them to the digital world.

It was great, and I loved it.

Nowadays, I seem to be doing it almost by accident. I jumped into a conversation on Twitter between Mary and Patrick the other night, in which they were both reflecting that their day jobs were consuming the enthusiasm they once had for blogging:

As I've often said, I can thank the fact that I kept blogging throughout my RBI days to the fact that I was able to move cleanly and quickly into a consultancy career in the aftermath of that job I loved.

Happily, that conversation got Mary blogging again:

I used to blog all the time. I used to have a serious writing work ethic. I’ve blogged in many formats under multiple names since 2004, or thereabouts, which makes me a bit of a youthful whippersnapper in terms of some of the internet. But it’s nearly a decade now, and that’s too much waffling on the internet to throw away just because I’m busy.

And then she got her husband Grant going, too:

This is all derived from a conversation with my wife, who said she wanted to write more, and sort-of-challenged me to 10 consecutive days of blogging. Then I started writing this post and realised 10 days didn’t sound like an awful lot, so I bumped it up to 14, then I realised that I’m going to be at PAX Australia all next weekend and that might make posting to schedule difficult if not impossible. So I stuck with 10.

And then Amy Adams (not that one, the other one) was watching all this, and decided to join in:

But as I was scrolling through Twitter the other day, a conversation between journalists Mary Hamilton and Adam Tinworth about the importance of blogging started to make me feel guilty. The argument, in summary, was that it is undeniably important to keep writing on the web. It is important creatively, for people who work with words for a living; intellectually, for people who have a lot of ideas and opinions, and for whom writing is a way of refining these; and logically, in a digital world where declaring yourself a writer of any kind without easy-to-find evidence is a pretty avoidable mistake to make.

In 2006, it would have been great if I could have got people blogging just by pontificating on Twitter. But then, they wouldn't have needed to pay me, would they?

This is just a quick, slightly random, photo post to check the iPhone-to-blog photo uploading capabilities of PUPS.

All looking pretty good so far.

#back2blog success

Yesterday marked the 10th and final day of the latest #back2blog challenge. The idea was to post every day at least once for 10 days. My hope was that it would kickstart my blogging. How did it go?

Well, as you can see from the graph above - swimmingly. Last week was hard, and on Sunday I came right down to the wire with a photo post. But it all kicked in properly this Monday, and I've been blogging up a storm since. Admittedly, today's been quiet, but that's because I was looking after Hazel to allow my wife to attend a conference.

Blogging is, as much as anything, a mindset. For me, it's getting into the flow state of encountering an idea for a post, and then connecting that moment of insight with the action of writing the post as closely as I can. The forced discipline of posting every day helped get all the right synapses firing once more - with great results. Now, let's see if I can keep it up...

Marked-down...

My personal, supplementary challenge was to write all my posts in Markdown. Did I achieve it? Yup. Will I continue doing so? Yup. It really makes writing well-formatted blog posts with good underlying HTML so much quicker. You can do pretty much all of it without having to lift hand from keyboard to start clicking buttons on the toolbar. Every second counts in my working life right now, and the time I'm claiming back is being recycled well - into an increased posting rate.

If you're a frequent blogger, I strongly suggest you give it a go...

Other #back2blog successes

Bloggers at work

Rogers Cadenhead on the news that Google Reader's death was the nail in the coffin for Seth Finkelstein's blog:

Finkelstein's a much-needed voice in tech because he's allergic to bullshit. As an admirer of his writing I hate to see his site close, but I can't argue with his premise that the rewards of running a personal blog with moderate traffic aren't high enough to justify the effort. Blogs don't receive as many comments as they used to, and the amount of conversation a blog post attracts elsewhere seems to be dropping as well. Now that millions of people have social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, they have a place they can comment with home field advantage. They don't need to play on the road and respond on your blog.

One Man & His Blog is very much a moderate traffic blog - but its traffic is the highest it has been in the decade it's been running, and is growing month-on-month. There's been no sign of that reversing since the Google Reader shut down, although it's possible I've lost readers who were only reading in a feed reader. Comments come and go in bursts, but most discussion actually seems to happen on Twitter.

This blog is my storefront - a showcase of my work, my thinking and my expertise, and there's very little work I've had since I dived into consultancy 18 months ago that has not come from this blog in some way.

Do I sell ads here? No.

Do I get a heap of comments? No.

Do I get a boatload of traffic? No.

But I do get work from it. It's really the only marketing I'm doing. because of that, I'm able to contribute my share towards supporting my little family - and that's all that matters in the end. As Hugh Macleod said a very long time ago - blogs are a great way to make things happen indirectly - and that remains as true as ever.

A couple of blog recommendations for you, to drop into whatever you're using to replace Google Reader…

Adam's Apples

Adam's Apples - a blog Adam Scott is the creative director of FreeState and a master of brand-related storytelling. Remember my liveblogging from the Zeitgeist Project in Berlin? They were the people behind it.

His new blog Adam's Apples is a buffet of interesting ideas about narrative expressed in a physical context. Must-read.

Not So Thin Lizzie

Not So Thin Lizzie - a blog One of my (now ex-) students from the Magazine Journalism MA at City University has spun off her own food blog from the project blog she did as part of the Online Journalism module.

Not So Thin Lizzie is a journey through her interest in food. Pop over, salivate a little and give her some encouragement.

Rekindling the RSS fire?

A quick addendum to last night's post - a quick cut of the analytics data from my blog shows Feedly and the Old Reader emerging as growing referrers over the last couple of weeks.

I am really enjoying seeing the range of readers emerge as Google Reader winds down. There are some, like Bloglovin' which seems to target and promote the idea of feed reading to specific communities really well, while others are more about supporting Google Reader refugees.

This arrived from Bloglovin' this morning:

bloglovin-email.png

Nice, clear explanation of the benefits of RSS reading. A very clear targeting of lifestyle bloggers. Lots of badges for bloggers to display on their websites. Niche tools? A compelling explanation of what the tool does? This is what RSS has always needed.

I'm beginning to feel a little hope that we might actually see a resurgence of RSS…