Results tagged “blogs”

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.

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.

Are you familiar with the expression "tl;dr"? Classic "internet speak" for "too long; didn't read". It's often used in a mocking, trolling sense. 

Well, now there's a new variation on it: bp;dr

"behind paywall; didn't read"

In the context I just came across it, it was applied to a scientific paper, but obviously the phrase is going to hit the journalistic world sooner or later. As increasing numbers of outlets erect paywalls, more and more people will find themselves in a bp;dr situation. Some will pay, many won't.

This reminded me of Jon Bernstein's recent meditation on the catastrophic effect The Times's paywall had on its blogs, especially Comment Central, which is a shadow of its pre-2010 self:

A blog like Comment Central really needs to be free. There simply isn’t the community among the subscriber base to make it thrive and blogs work best when thoughts are shared, posts link out and are linked to, and discussions are prompted by the opinions and insights expressed. All that needs to happen beyond the walled garden of a single publication.

I think people would do well to pause and remember that, as they rush to erect paywalls around their content, that there's a price for the publisher as well: isolation from the online conversation that determines relevance and attention. Some years ago, I was involved in an effort to build free access content for one online site that had been paywalled for a decade - because its isolation from online discussion and linking was hitting both its reputation and its search traffic. However good the reputation of this site's journalism - to the internet, it looked like it didn't exist. 


Private Frazer's Doomed Magazines is five years old. At this rate it might out-live the industry:

Actually, of course publishing will survive, but in five years time there will be fewer titles and fewer big companies. Magazines will continue to close, publishing businesses will go out of business or merge, and fewer people will be employed. We will continue to read articles (on mobile devices, obviously) about the 'vibrancy' of print because another tiny indy publication has launched; the PPA will continue to send out press releases about the health of the industry even as its membership continues to fall; and senior executives will continue to pay themselves ten times more than most of their employees as their reward for managing decline.

There's so much that's quotable in the post, that I had a hard time picking out just one par. Go read

Congratulations, Private Frazer, you miserable old sod. :-)

The Back to the Blog challenge


For the next ten days, starting tomorrow (Tuesday), I'm going to write a post a day. I'll keep it short: blogging used to be quick and dirty, and somewhere between the arrival of Facebook and Twitter, posts have started growing into long essays that take hours to write.

Great idea. I'm getting increasingly uncomfortable with handing over content to Twitter and Facebook just because it's short. This is a space I own and control. I need to nurture it more... and so I'm joining in. 

One of the nice things about shifting from a corporate employee to freelance consultant-for-hire type, is completely defining my own work style and tools. For example, I just figured out how to solve the "where did I read that?" issue that often plagues me when blogging. For example, while writing this for NEXT, I wanted to refers back to a couple of blog posts I'd read. This is how I ensure that I have the last month's worth of blog reading available to me at all times. 

My Mac RSS readers of choice is Reeder. It has this handy little setting:

Reeder read settings
With things set up like that, I have a 30 day archive of my subscribed feeds, one that's searchable offline, like this:

Searching Reeder
Dead handy that. Next to sort out is long-term reference storage, which is probably going to involve Evernote and Instapaper in some clever way...

Calling a blog a blog

Andy Boyle:

It's time to stop bifurcating your content as blogs and news because they run on separate systems. It is all content, so why not call it that? Even if you have outside people writing posts on your website that are unmoderated by your staff -- that's still content that's part of your media outlet's website. I don't have any research proving this, but in my short journalism career many media outlets just slapped the name "blog" on something because it lived in a different CMS. We should stop this. Please.

No, we shouldn't.

Blogs aren't just about the technology. Blogs are about tone of voice, an approach to community-focused publishing, linking and focus. You can deliver news through a blog, sure, but you won't be doing it in the same way you do traditional news.

He's essentially arguing that we should stop calling newspapers by that name, and call them all magazines, because hey, they're all printed on folded paper, right?

If people are separating "blogs" and "news" purely on technology, then yes, they're idiots. (It's also another category error. You can deliver news through blogs, but not blogs through news. See?)  However, if they don't understand the distinctions between the two media, and perceive them all as a mish-mash of content, they they don't understand the subtleties of either medium.



I've been watching the revamp of the BBC's blogs with a mix of horror and awe. It feels as if they've decided to go back and make all the mistakes that most big media organisations make the first time they try social media. Maybe they feel they missed out.

Some changes make a certain sense. Moving off Movable Type? Many have done so. We may make the same decision later in the year.

Moving to a generic non-blog platform? Not so smart. Function begets form, sometimes, and blog platforms are designed to facilitate blogging, rather than other forms of content production. They're using a spanner for a screwdriver's job.

Headline-only RSS feeds? Great way to lose all your RSS readers!

But this I find incomprehensible:

With some news stories each day having comments on them, there may be times when a story and correspondent's analysis cover the same subject. To avoid unnecessary duplication and even confusion, generally we will seek to have comments on one or the other. So correspondents' pieces may not always include comments. In addition, in our new system, comments have a maximum length of 400 characters. It's my view that this makes for sharper contributions, though I know some disagree.

The reaction, across all the blogs, has been uniformly negative.

From Nick Robinson's blog:

I believe he (and other Editors) looks on the commenters on his blog as idiots.


The new format was not imposed for our benefit. The intention is to stifle serious debate. And frivolous debate.


This is no longer a blog. What a shame.


Tellingly, Robinson himself has only posted once since the switch to the new format.

This shows such a fundemental disrespect for the commenting community that they would have been better saying "we can't handle the comment load, we're turning off comments". Some blogs function perfectly well like this - Daring Fireball, The Dish - but this half-arsed solution with the newest comment at the top, breaking any conversational continuity? Horrible. It feels like someone who has never written, used or commented on a blog outside the BBC's own has taken charge of their blogging technology, and ignored the accumulated experience of hundreds and thousands of bloggers big and small worldwide. That's a powerful fusion of arrogance and stupidity right there.

Prediction: they'll either revert to a more traditional blog form, or end up turning off comments within six months.

Iain Dale thinks he's riding to the rescue of British political blogging:

I think the way forward for mass audience blogs is with group blogs. To that effect in a few weeks I am launching a new multi-authored site provisionally called Iain Dale & Friends. It won't have an editorial line, it won't be politically partisan, and it will cover culture, the media and sport as well as core UK and world politics. I've recruited 40 or 50 friends to write for the site.

My experience is that group blogs are significantly harder to make work that individual blogs, as I mentioned here. That's not to say that Dale's enterprise won't work - Samizdata is an example of a long-running, successful group political blog, for example - but the challenges may be much greater than he expected.

Personally, I suspect the decline in political blogging, such as it is, is around the change of government. It is, after all, the first time that has happened in the life of the UK blogosphere. The blogs of the right are more muted now that their lot are in power, and the blogs of the left have yet to really take on board the fact that they lost the election. The ones I read seem to think that the Coalition will collapse at any second, and that Labour will return to its natural position in government Real Soon Now. Once they get through this denial and the other stages of grief, I expect they'll start growing a bit more vigourously.

The power of a single blog

Interesting graph from Andrew Sullivan as part of a post on journalism 2.0:

The Daily Dish Moves
The sudden divergence of traffic at the end marks the point Sullivan's blog, The Dish moved from The Atlantic to The Daily Beast


But it's worth noting that, according to Quantcast, the Beast's traffic in terms of page views is now 39 million a month, compared with the Atlantic's 15 million. The month before the Dish moved, it was 27 million pageviews for the Beast vs 21 million for the Atlantic. The gap in pageviews between the two sites has gone in one month from 6 million to 24 million. Since ads are sold on pageviews, that has got to mean something long-term. Quite what I don't really know.
I'm sure you can come up with one or two suggestions...
Enhanced by Zemanta

My Snow Saviour: Social Media

Snowy Sutton Station
Like pretty much everybody else who works in and around London, I've been caught in the travel problems caused by the onset of snow. I abandoned the car in the Sutton carpark last night, and took the trains back to Lewisham. I managed it in a little over two hours, but only because Twitter had told me that it wasn't worth trying to get a train from London Bridge. The #southeastern hashtag on Twitter was eye-watering but informative reading, and suggested to me that a Thameslink/DLR combo would be a better way to go, and sure enough it was. With colleagues reporting up to 13 hour journeys home, I'm pretty thankful.

In fact, I've got pretty much all my travel information over the past 24 hours from Twitter and blogs, like Daryl's excellent tracking of SouthEastern's ongoing failure, rather than mainstream media. It's this sort of granular level of coverage, right down to line and operating company, that social media excels at - and which mainstream media has neither the resources and the inclination to do. In fact, all the mainstream news can do is tell us that people are having travel problems all across the south east. It's social media that's helping us figure out how to get to a warm bed...
Windows Phone 7 & Gizmodod
I noticed this (huge) advert for Windows Phone 7 on my way through London Bridge this morning. Now, I must have seen it over a dozen times in the last few weeks, but it was only today that what it actually said registered with me.

There was the normal quote from a publication extolling the virtues of the new product - but this was no national newspaper or technology magazine.

A quote. On a huge advert. In one of the mainline commuter stations. In one of the biggest cities in the world.

That feels like another tipping point. 
Enhanced by Zemanta

Lessons from the death of Vox

See It. Hear It. Vox It.

Last Thursday, I opened Safari, and found a death notice. Vox, a blogging platform I've used for four years, was on death row. At the end of this month, it dies.

I used to love Vox. Up until mid-2008 I was an enthusiastic Voxer, posting there as least as much as I do here. But my activity had petered off in recent years, and I think there are some lessons worth learning in the demise of this once-promising platform.


I was a Vox user from June 9th 2006, and for about two years I loved it. It had an ease of use and a simplified posting interface that was unmatched until the arrival of Tumblr - and Tumblr still lacks Vox's superb integration with other sites. It was very much a "son of Livejournal", which Six Apart owned at the time, combining Livejournal's social network features that allowed you to show certain posts to a limited selection of your contacts, with a really easy-to-use interface.

A few people tried to use Vox as a straight blogging platform, but it was far more of a communication tool, as Six Apart CEO Chris Alden once characterised it to me, designed for publishing to the dozen people you care about most, rather than the world at large. It was a good idea. Yet, four years on, it's dead.

So, what happened? Two things, I think:

  • The most obvious is the old adage that when you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail. Six Apart is a blog company, and when they decided to build a communication tool, they built it in a blog form. But blogs are quite hard to maintain. Not everyone has the inclination to create structure content in a way that a blog demands. And that made it hard to get your friends and family on there. My only notable success in that area was Rev Stan. My late mother managed two posts. My wife? None.
  • The bigger problem was timing. Vox was launched in 2006. The earliest mention I can find on my blog was in June. Facebook opened up from students to the general public in the September of that year. By the time Mena Trott was promoting Vox at Le Web in December, Facebook was building up a head of steam, one that Vox was never able to match.

These two factors were, in conjunction, killers. Facebook made it much easier to do Vox's "private communication" schtick by reducing the barriers to getting content into it - upload a photo, post a status update, rather than write a post.

There were other issues. Users who accuse Six Apart of neglecting the platform are pretty accurate. All of the US team's development resources have been focused on the relaunched Typepad in the last couple of years, and to good effect. But the neglect of Vox showed, particularly in the spam management area. The writing had been on the wall for a while.

Anyway, my Vox posts are now safely ensconced in my Typepad blog, and it feels surprisingly good to have consolidated somewhat. There are some features from Vox I'd like to see resurface:

  • Easy pulling in of media from other sources (Flickr, Amazon, YouTube, etc)
  • Ability to limit some posts to certain contacts
  • The asset management

And, with a bit of luck, we'll see some of that emerge in Typepad, which, as it develops, seems to have integrated many of the lessons from Vox. It's not trying to be anything other than a content-focused tool. It plays very nicely with social networks like Twitter and Facebook, allowing you to share content with family and friends, even if they'll never be bloggers.

Vox was a brave attempt to build a blog-based social network. But I still believe that social tools on top of existing services will be more important that building social network after social network. And I suspect that Vox won't be the last social network to fail in the coming months.

Enhanced by Zemanta

solo10 3.jpgsolo10 1.jpg

solo10 4.jpg

solo10 2.jpg

I dropped into one of the unconference sessions, looking at engaging with your readers (of obvious interest to me). The panel did a sterling job of giving a beginner's guide to managing comments and commenters, from different scales (personal blogs to Ars Technica). I thought Ed Yong's comments about building a commenter community around your personal blog were particularly good - and the delurking thread idea is one I intend to nick.

But the audience, once the questions started, took the conversation in an entirely different direction, about the reputation of scientists and (to a degree) to the on-going problem of poor scientific reporting. Now, as a journalist, a profession usually in the top three least trusted professions, I'm not entirely clear why scientists are so concerned, but there's clearly a strong feeling fo disconnect between the scientific community and the general public. There was some attempt in the conversation to shape blogs into the answer to that. However, I think there were two key misconceptions percolating through the discussion. The first was the idea that blogging is inherently publishing to the mainstream - a question was asked that pre-supposed that a science blog that wasn't reaching a non-specialist audience was, in some way, failing. And I disagree strongly with that sentiment. Some of the best blogs I know have small, but highly specialised audiences. A highly specialised science blog is just as valuable as a generalist science communicator  blog - they're just performing different functions.

The second that was a blog is something that "you have to go to" - Ed started to address that point, describing how people share links to interesting articles on Twitter and Facebook (feel free to use the buttons below, folks ;-)) and that creates an ecosystem of content that is pushed outside its traditional content.

To me, this suggests that many within the scientific community are somewhere between three and four years behind the "cutting edge" of social media - much of the focus is still on blogging, and the rise of the social networking systems has yet to have as much of an impact. But I could be wrong in that. It occurs that scientists are used to describing their work in written form - it's an inherent part of the current systems. And perhaps the barrier of entry to blogging is slightly lower here, which means that blogging hasn't been so supplanted by the Twitter/Facebook world. What do you think?

IMG_4561.jpgI'm down in Brighton for dConstruct, a conference I've heard plenty about over the years, but never actually managed to attend. And so far, it's proving an interesting morning. It's certainly challenging some of the preconceived notions I see in play in the way we build websites. Brendan Dawes (right) has just given a great talk called "Boil, Simmer, Reduce", which led on nicely from Marty Neumeier's talk emphasising the need to move beyond a comfort zone fo wholesale acceptance and user-testing approval to truly innovate. The first two parts of Dawes' talk were issues I have a low-level awareness of, but easily let go of in the stress of the average day. There is a need to draw in information and inspiration from outside sources, and relect on the ideas that come from that process - and reflect again as you start drawing on those concepts while you're working on projects.

But it was the last element - reduce - that really struck me. It was something of a call to stop just piling features on something, but to actually strip a design, a site, a concept, back to its core and provide only what's really needed. I think there's been a definite trend in site building in recent years to pile feature after feature onto the page, weighing it down with Javascript and PhP includes and adverts and related content. Now some of it is useful, and serves a good purpose. But does all of it? Do we need to think more clearly about what exactly the extra features are offering the user?

I've noted a trend in blog design in recent years, where the growth in columns from two to three is rolling back to two - or ever one. (Note the simplified look of currybet, for example) In a way, this whole thought process is pushing me back to the days of student newspapers, Macs and Pagemaker, when most magazines used every font that they possibly could. I argued for keeping the typeface choice extremely limited and, seeing as I was editor, I won. I think we're in a similar place with web functionality right now. Roll back the widgets, concentrate on the user journey and what they really want from the site.

What Blogging Did Next

Interesting piece in The Economist:

People are not tiring of the chance to publish and communicate on the internet easily and at almost no cost. Experimentation has brought innovations, such as comment threads, and the ability to mix thoughts, pictures and links in a stream, with the most recent on top. Yet Facebook, Twitter and the like have broken the blogs' monopoly. Even newer entrants such as Tumblr have offered sharp new competition, in particular for handling personal observations and quick exchanges. Facebook, despite its recent privacy missteps, offers better controls to keep the personal private. Twitter limits all communication to 140 characters and works nicely on a mobile phone.

Does Conversation Scale?

The BBC's Nick Robinson on the comments left on his blog:

"So I'm going to be honest with you and I've said this before and I've upset some people. I don't read the comments anything like as much as I used to because there is too much static white noise in them and not enough pure feedback. But if we could find a way of having a more thoughtful, less abusive debate via blogs I think that would be a good thing."

He's not alone in this observation - many big, high traffic blogs have abandoned comments, employed moderators, or left their comments as a bear pit, because one to many conversation doesn't scale very well. Forums have been dying under the weight of moderation problems since before blogs were first published.

This is a challenge for mainstream media companies as social media becomes a more central part of what we do, and not just a fringe activity (in fact, I'm in the process of arranging a meeting with one of our titles that is going through the early stages of this issue).

What's the solution? Community managers? User voting? Enforced registration?
One Journalist and His Blog:

The leading business publication Forbes is set to go live with a "major upgrade" of its social media later today, Business Insider saying every reporter will be required to have their own blog.
Most reporters are "starting [their blogs] from scratch", says Joe Pompeo, a reporter at Business Insider, and the fresh take will be based on a "completely revamped" WordPress installation.
Enhanced by Zemanta