Monday, December 31, 2007

Does (audience) size matter?? (or is it how we touch each other?)

For awhile, I'd been thinking of writing something on how influence can be more important to a blogger than huge audience numbers--today Scoble raised the issue of the importance of audience size for any of us who produces content. Scoble brings up a number of things beyond huge traffic numbers that might make advertisers want to advertise on a blog, pointing out things like causing conversations to happen or getting noticed in your niche. These are, unfortunately, what lots of folks consider "intangibles"--mostly because they don't generate immediately and in the first quarter huge tangible income returns...

Mark Rizzi at Mashable! makes an important point about Scoble: ". . .I don’t think he has ever been in a position where he’s had to build a significant mainstream audience from the ground up. Scoble, from the time he entered blogging, seems to have been fairly well connected within the industry, and had essentially a built-in audience of influencers."

And this is very true. But I think Mark and Robert may be talking an apples vs. oranges thing here. Mark's talking about blogging as a main part of a business. Robert, on the other hand, started blogging (if I recall correctly) not as a direct part of a business, so his perspective is going to be a bit different from Mark's. (Robert also brought his audience with him when he went to PodTech, which, I'm sure, helped him create his PodTech deal.)

However, if I'm looking at blogging as something that's not my primary business, but as a way of building personal brand, the idea of influence over audience--something Robert alludes to--becomes extremely important. Influence, as in who's linking to you and who's reading you, can help someone build a certain cachet or "personal brand."

The whole thing reminds me of something Susan Mernit said to me a couple of years ago when I was fretting over lack of high blog traffic: that it may not be how many people are reading you, but who is reading you.

If a blogger or blog-related business is looking for ad dollars, then yes, size (as in traffic as in audience) does matter. CMP rates and all that. But, if you--as a small business or as an individual blogger are looking to grow a reputation, and perhaps a certain audience from that reputation, then the traffic numbers don't count as much.

What does matter is who you meet and who calls you, and what kinds of projects you're offered. Who is it that makes deals with you. Who gives you a contract, who gives you a nice check at the end of said contract, and if whomever will hire you again for another contract.

Which relates to another aspect of the whole social media landscape: how we define our contacts--who we really "know" By "know" I don't necessarily mean who we "friend" on Facebook inasmuch as who we meet f2f, who we call and email. Scott Karp alluded to this yesterday in his post on email and cellphone contacts as the real "social graph." What I have found through real life tactile experience is that the people whom I know, who I resonate with on a personality level, and whom I converse with regularly even if I don't see them (as I live out in the equivalent of West Jabip) are the people that are likely to hire me to work with them. When being someone's Facebook "friend" is a click away (as Scott notes), those "old-fashioned" social networking paradigms like phone and email and *gasp* Face to face interaction become the stuff that ends up making the deal for us..

Don't get me wrong--social media is great fun. I love being able to keep track of people I've met at cons maybe only a couple of times--and I know from being online for over 10 years now that those relationships can be nurtured and grow. But it's the folks I talk to, the ones I've made huge bang-up impressions on at some point, who read my blogs on occasion and who I bother with comments now and then are the ones that make things *happen* for me.

So, if it's all about size--well, maybe it's more about what you're trying to get from your blogging, vlogging, podcasting, social network, etc. If it's ad revenue, then yes, size means everything. If it's influence and other kinds of work, quality and direct contact trump click-through, 1 second pageviews.

Think about what you want--and what you're trying to create. Is it quick money? or is it influence? Is it pageviews or personal impressions?

It's really up to you...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

In Western Mass, Citizen Journalism Sprouts Wings

I am a firm believer that when the local media is held hostage by media conglomerates--whether public or privately owned-- that the people have to start using new media to be heard. Nowhere is this more evident in Western Massachusetts, where there is one paper for Springfield, one paper for Northampton (held hostage behind a pay wall), an "alternative" press that's owned by Tribune, and most of the radio's been parsed out to Clear Channel. Between the press and radio, we get a healthy dose of the most moderated and bland media mush you could possibly ask for. But I had no idea what my fellow citizens had been up to...

Little did I know that Bill Dusty--a guy who once called me a "weenie" on the Masslive boadrs ;-)--started something called The Springfield Intruder (gotta love that name!) I found the Intrude when Dusty linked to me in a blogger vs. journalist piece he wrote earlier this month.

And yes, that's a great way to get another blogger's attention!

The Intruder demonstrates how one guy with a big mouth can start a fairly decently looking citizen journalism site....I wish Bill great luck with this venture and hope he can keep growing it in '08.

Meanwhile, my friend Heather Brandon, moved out to Hartford and took her popular citizen journalism blog Urban Compass out from under the auspices of *any* mass media venture and into its own. Heather splits her writing between Springfield (where she still feels a connection) and Hartford now, but I think that being out from under the msm has given her much more freedom to create and maintain a site that explores the issues of Springfield and Hartford in a way that puts Them to shame.

There's also Michaelann Land, started by the founder of Arise for Social Justice, Michaelann Bewsee. Michaelann's blog entries are short and to the point, sometimes personal, usually with links to more info. Her blogging's important for keeping an eye on the homeless situation in Springfield--which got a bit bleaker with the close of the Food Pantry that was maintained in the Old First Church (which is also closing)

There's something of an irony in the close of Old First Church. It's the folks who founded churches like OFC that became the folks who, for the most part, head social justice initiatives. But, somewhere along the line, perhaps with the decline of mainline protestantism, the same institutions that nurtured social justice initiatives no longer have enough congregants to keep going...

but I digress...

Another person to throw his hat into the citizen journalism ring is Paolo Mastrangelo with the Northamptonist What impresses me the most about the Northamptonist is how Paolo wrote a very balanced post on the extrememly contentious issues of development in Northampton, which gave equal time to Adam Cohen, noted for NoPornNorthampton...Paolo also did not alter any comments to the post.

A couple of things about the Northamptonist: it would be nice to know more about Paolo, as in he *could* post a profile of himself somewhere. Not everyone is familiar with the "cast of characters" in Northampton, and since the blog is not anonymous anyway, why withhold that info? The archives could also be re-organized by date rather than topic, but that's an editorial decision...

Through the Northamptonist, I found Mary Serreze's Community Radio Hour blog,
where you'll also find mp3 files of past shows.

CRH is hosted on our area's answer to ClearChannel, Valley Free Radio WXOJ-LP 103.3FM. It's an interesting station, one much needed--although I the one show I heard one night coming back from Boston didn't impress me all that much, there's most definitley some fabulous alternatives to the John Tesch (??!?) and Leeza Gibbons hosted messes on ClearChannel...

Now, whether these citizen journalism sites are to the right (like Dusty's) or the left (like Mastrangelo's) doesn't matter to me--it's the fact that local citizens are raising issues and starting conversations outside of and independent of the auspices of local media. Local mainstream media should not in any way be the "support mechanism" or "foundation" for citizen journalism That just doesn't make sense--and, frankly, can easily make citizen journalism the low-paid toadie of a poorly-produced mainstream journalism. We need independent voices, and I'm glad to see that these folks are going the independent route.

All the best to them and their endeavors in '08!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

This was the scene at my place last night at around 12a.m. hope your holidays are as peaceful and plentiful :-)

Back to regular blogging in the next week or so...

Friday, December 14, 2007


It's not even officially winter yet--and we had about a foot of snow today. Guess that's life in New's a few pix of what it's like on Cottage St. in Easthampton tonight...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's Not His First Time: Zuckerberg's mea culpa for violating your privacy

So, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg issued a contrite (trite??) apology about Beacon...
When we first thought of Beacon, our goal was to build a simple product to let people share information across sites with their friends. It had to be lightweight so it wouldn't get in people's way as they browsed the web, but also clear enough so people would be able to easily control what they shared. We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn't on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends.

But we missed the right balance....

Missed the right balance? Boy, I'll say....and it's his second time for this "missed the right balance"...

Now, does anyone other than me remember that last September, Facebook had to apologize for placing RSS feeds where a critical mass of Facebook customers really didn't want them??? And that was well before Facebook was open to the general (aging) public...

So much for the contention that young people enjoy having less privacy and that we'll all have to just have to get used to having less privacy....

Although it seems to me that Zuckerberg keeps trying to foist upon Facebook users various ways to use our Facebook content for his benefit vs. to the benefit of Facebook users. Our Facebook content, if you think about it, *could* conceivably be seen as "user-generated content" and something that so many folks are trying to find ways to leverage or monetize for their benefit at the expense of our privacy.

Often, leveraging UGS is usually at the expense of either our privacy or our benefit--remember, there are MSM networks that are constantly bugging us for our "UGC" so that they can hold it and re-use it in perpetuity (see this post) with the meager benefit of maybe seeing it used somewhere. Don't even *think* of asking for money or asking to post it on your own blog once they have it...

Yet Facebook's still rummaging around in our metaphorical underwear drawers--and this time sending it to us with a little bow: Techcrunch reports that Facebook's now including the text, rather than a just a link, in our Facebook email alerts. Arrington thinks this is ok, as it's not making us click back to Facebook to see our Facebook email...

Jim Benson asks what this represents, "other than Mike Arrington's too lazy to click on a link?" (once again, Jim makes me giggle...) Aside from Jim's contention that email isn't dead (good point there) he also contends that:
"Facebook is getting the message that the information on Facebook is someone else's property that they are entrusted with, in exchange for a $15B US valuation. If Facebook continues to hoard our data, people will go elsewhere.

And that's the difference between doing something for us and giving them our personal information, be it through RSS feeds (like last year) or Beacon (like this year.)

Personally, I don't really care about the email...clicking thru to Facebook email is sometimes just a good excuse for me to go in and update my status. Ah, yes--in my corner of the world, the whole "social networking" thing is reaching its own level of equilibrium with the old tried-and-true "f2f socializing" thing. For some reason, I'm kind of liking the privacy that I have with f2f socializing. At least with f2f, you get to know me over time rather than me playing some kind of online fan dance with my online profile. Don't get me wrong: social networking sites are kind of cool. But they only reveal those things we want to reveal--without the benefit of seeing/hearing the other person. Social networking is a great way of keeping track of people we know, but it really shouldn't substitute for time shared in f2f environments--esp. if it means having to lose privacy and control over our "content."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Re-Imaging our Social Media Selves: Facebook Rethinks Beacon "Creeptech"

Update Apparently 50,000 incensed Facebook users could be enough to make Facebook do something about Beacon--or, will Facebook continue (as in the words of to meet "the wish lists of corporate advertisers ahead of the basic privacy rights of Internet users." Sign the petition here

More from Techcrunch: Facebook flips on Beacon

So, finally, something's gotten to the guys at Facebook, and they're beginning to see that their wonderful idea for rummaging around in the underwear drawer of your social networking purchasing private life--with a thing called "Beacon"--wasn't going to win them any new friends, and has alienated quite a few old ones (see above) Businessweek reported that not only were people none too happy with Beacon's "creeptech" sharing the most intimate details of your purchase history with everybody you know on Facebook, but that there was a particularly hinky opt-out system where you really weren't getting the option to "opt-out."
Several people complained they weren't given the option not to share information publicly, or that pop-up notices on partner sites were too subtle to notice. Kim Garvey, a 21-year-old junior at Chicago's DePaul University, says she found out about Beacon after friends were alerted to a restaurant review she posted on Yelp. "I didn't see the little thing that popped up, and I didn't mean to tell everyone," Garvey says."For me, that was sort of uncomfortable." She adds that she was surprised Facebook "is willing to invade people's privacy

Not to mention that privacy groups are readying complaints to be filed with the FTC regarding this particularly creepy little piece of creeptech...

Yet I'm somewhat stunned by the way some folks (esp. some marketers who seem to be losing their senses) have thought that Beacon is a "cool" way to find out what your friends like. Think about it though: are you such an open book to all your friends that you really want them knowing every purchase that you make? Do you truly believe--like some Silicon Valley folks--that privacy is "an old man's concern" and it's perfectly fine to be a perfectly open book to every entity that is capable of surfing your social networking profiles?

Or (more than likely) are you one of those people who keeps more than one online personna just so that you've got groups of friends who *don't* know about your super-secret self--and another group of friends who doesn't know you're really a mini-van driving, bad-fitting-chino-wearing, haus-mann?

In this short piece at The Register, Chris Williams points out one of the ironies of social networking sites:
It's a well known phenomenon that social networks encourage users to be "friends" with people they wouldn't have anything to do with in meatspace, however.
This irony is highlighted in Steve Outing's recent post at Poynter where he suggests reporters keep two Facebook profiles,, one for "fans" and one for their real "friends," just like the folks at ABC News (both terms--friend and fan--now being stretched just a bit by soc. networking...)

Wouldn't that then make it Two-Face'dbook?? And, what happened to that notion of transparency???

What much of this boils down to is how much of our Selves are we knowingly and willingly going to keep putting out there if marketers want to rummage in our unmentionables and reporters continue to want to keep us at arm's length by having "fans" on one side and "friends" on the other? What's really going on with Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and why do so many people seem to be resigning themselves to a loss of privacy in order to be part of the social networking world??

Perhaps what's truly going on here is a re-imagining of the public and private selves--notions prominent in Victorian times (and something pointed to in William's piece.) When the BBC's Adam Curtis was asked (in the third clip) if Facebook was the new TV, Curtis said that he believes Facebook was more about the re-invention of the public self. When "the central reality of our time" is all about putting the "me" in media, we are using social media to construct new public persona's in much the manner that the Victorians did. Curtis points out that people put up on Facebook who they want to be seen as and how they want to be measured by their communities--not totally their true selves (think about it: how many adults don't list their marital or dating status any more than they list their religion.) Our Facebook profiles *are* us, but only a version of us for the public gaze....

But don't we still want the ability to control what parts of our "public gaze" meets the "public gaze" of others? While we may get caught up in the hoopla of Facebook, and while so many may want to agree to the non-opt-out of Beacon creepware, there are many, many more of us who are interested in protecting our Selves (even if that Self is a filtered public gaze) from too much intrusion.

Let's hope Facebook makes a good, ethical decision before the FTC has to get involved...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Measuring Effectiveness of Social Media: Understanding the Power of Influence

There's lots of evidence all over the place that blogging makes friends--and just in my own little world, Mack Collier of the Viral Garden, who I met through blogging about marketing, recently tagged me for my thoughts on a meme on measuring the effectiveness of social media campaigns....

Now, I'm not going to claim I know it all about social media campaigns--frankly, I'm only starting to do some work on social media campaigns for clients, and I'm seeing how social media works both differently and the same for a company as it does for an individual looking to build a "personal brand"--

What I believe should be common to both building a personal brand as much as to a business is building influence through your blogging.

From influence can flow reputation...from reputation can flow business...

Now, I'm not going to get into the whys and wherefores of how to build a blog that creates influence. What I'm going to look at is how to know if you're creating that influence...

There are lots of measurements to help us understand what's going on with our blogs--but these measurements must be looked at quite carefully in order to understand them--and not underestimate them. What at first may seem like nothing--or even discouraging--can be, ultimately, a very big *something*...

In Mack mentions three criteria to help recognize when a blog is creating value for its readers:

1- Is your web/subscriber traffic increasing?

2 - Are the number of comments per post increasing?

3- Are you tracking more links to the posts you write on the blog?

And for the most part, these are very good questions to ask oneself. Let's ask some further questions to drill into the issues these questions raise--and I'm going to use my blog for an example, the way that Mack did....

1--how do you know your web/subscriber traffic is increasing? Well, this is where you have to look at your stats--whether you use Google Analytics or Sitemeter, or any number of stats tracking packages, you'll get the basic information on traffic increase. Most will also give you an idea of where your traffic is coming from--whether it's from links from other blogs, from Google or other search engines, or rss readers.

I haven't blogged in a few (well, more than a few) days, but I can see that I'm coming up regularly in Google search results, that a link from has brought someone in, as well as a link from some other blogs and someone following their comments with Co-Comment (a great feature I *still* have to sign up for)

Look carefully at the search terms, which are at the ends of the search strings--these will tell you the terms people used, what terms are associated with posts you've made to your blog. With Google searches, you can click to see what page --as in what number of results--your post came up in. Since some of the subjects of my posts are quite unique, my blog may come up fairly high in google's search.

This is part of how I've gained a rather high Google Page Rank even though my blog traffic is fairly low (really only 35-50 readers per day when I don't blog--sometimes up to 100 depending on the subject I blog on, as well as if I'm picked up by Techememe for blogging on a tech-related topic, or if I've received other links)

A much overlooked stat--which is a great measure of influence--is how long someone is staying on your blog If someone is reading, you're probably influencing them! Here's another page from my stats which will explain:

Note that several of the readers stayed for well over the average click-through. This means that I had the information they were looking for--not that I merely came up in their search criteria. Note that many of the folks who spent time reading also went to more than one page--and if you compare the top page with this page, you will also be able to see which search worked for them (it was Google's Blog Search) People who have found you once under the right search terms are more than likely to check out other pages in your blog--they may even subscribe, or at least come back to you again...

Which leads to the whole idea of subscriptions: which are great in theory, but, in practice, can be hard to track. That is, if you're using something other than a Feedburner feed. Emerging "industry standards" like Feedburner definitely make it easier to track subscriptions (not sure though if they track across different rss readers or not.) But if you don't use a Feedburner feed, you may be hard pressed to find out how many subscriptions you have over the varieties of rss readers out there. I know of the various subscriptions through various readers by examining my stats and getting details when I see "Bloglines" or "MyYahoo" or "Netvibes" or any number of other readers. Since my traffic is fairly low, I can give my blog this kind of personal attention--and could even come up with some way to track all of it if I sincerely desired to drill way into these stats.

But that's a lot of work--and not sure what it might tell me if I manually tracked this info. There are other ways to know if you're influencing...

Further who are all these subscribers anyway? It's sometimes hard to tell if your subscribers are other bloggers or just readers. Both are good, and both impact your influence, but knowing exactly whether you've got blogger/readers or just plain old readers is a bit tough...

Which leads to comments and links (Mack's #2 and #3 points). Let's ask these questions:

Are comments all that important? and How are you tracking links?

Let's look first at tracking links--do you rely on "trackbacks" to let you know who's linked to your posts? If you do, this might be a bit tricky, considering "trackback spam" or no-follow codes placed in your template that don't let you see who's linking to your posts. Registering with Technorati is still most helpful for tracking links, as well as Google'ing your blog in Google's Blog Search as well as regular Google. Also try smaller engines like might yield some startling link results (such as LiveJournal, MySpace or splog links) Currently, Technorati says this blog has 509 blog reactions, with an authority of 145 and is ranked at 42,744 (also have a Google Page Rank of 5/10) not really all that bad for a solo blogger who writes on four different topics: journalism, media, tech, and marketing. :-)

Other folks I know, who have strong backgrounds in various "legacy" professions like marketing, journalism, television, or tech, do well when they blog within proximity to their legacy experience, while adding "personal touches" by blogging on something from their personal lives (parenting or travel.) The thing is to not sound stilted--be a person, whether you're blogging on more than one topic or if you're blogging on one topic, a "voice" is what can make a blog social, just as much as providing good information.

So, when we look at the set of stats that relates to tracking links, we have to situate ourselves within the rest of the blogosphere, and think of ourselves in a glass-half-full kind of way: did we have this influence before? Are our links coming from other bloggers and not from splogs (remember: splogs do not generate traffic for us)? Can we link back to the bloggers who linked to us and thus create a positive social relationship?

Now, let's consider comments: are comments all that important? Well, yes, in many ways they are--they're great to get (even when people disagree) and they are an immediate, visual example of interaction. Comments are for both you and for the people who come to your blog.

However, let's not forget what we found out about blog comments: that only 10% of readers will leave comments--the other 90% are "lurkers" a/k/a "readers." Lots of them may be the same folks who are subscribed to your blog, and may never comment, or only comment sporadically. If you'd like to increase comments can follow some of these suggestions that Darren Rowse has culled from a number of places--however, these often work in tandem with links and increased traffic from better positioning in search. Think of it this way: if you don't have readership, who are you inviting to comment?

Two more important points: never forget dual powers of email and networking! Depending on the age of your audience, the size of your business, its market, and the subject matter of your blog, some people may be more comfortable emailing you with questions about you or your product. So, make sure there's an email addy where people can get in touch with you. Also, some people may not be comfortable doing business with you until they meet you. I know that, with me, many people have wondered "who the heck is this big-mouthed broad"--yet when we meet f2f or via telephone, they're usually pleasantly surprised...

Email may not be hip, but it's still very social...and F2F meeting/networking is often underrated in all the social media hype...

Think of it this way: Social media can be part of a company or individual's marketing campaign, and sometimes influence is more important than the busyness of comments and links. Traffic stats are always the #1 measurement to consider for effectiveness and influence--they tell you who's coming in, where they're coming from, and how long they're staying. Subscriptions, links, and comments all add to credibility and help support traffic stats, but may be difficult to gather up in one place in order to obtain accurate measurements. Further, you may be blogging in a way that is situating you in a very narrow niche that might *not* yield big traffic, big comments, or big anything. If that's the case, your traffic stats are your best measurement, as well as looking at who's linking--you should be getting links mostly from bloggers (and other media outlets), not sploggers.

Ultimately, social media is one of many ways of connecting and creating awareness about your business/product/yourself--and in this growing media landscape, we need more than one outlet to connect with people. To be effective, consider social media along with other forms of media--and can facilitate "old fashioned" contacts through networking or email. Remember: in the social media landscape, one creates influence which leads to reputation, which leads to business...

Note: In reviewing this post, I noticed I focused on hard, statistical measurements of influence. I didn't talk about how one *creates* influence. That, to me, is something that's not easily measured. We can see influence in links, but how do we get these links? We can get people over to our blogs via the right search criteria, but this doesn't necessarily create links for us either. The keys are, perhaps, in the content--in what we're talking about as well as in how personable we are. Can people relate to us? Yet men and women "relate" differently--and striking the balance of where/how/who one relates can be tough. Some bloggers are great at transcending gender boundaries, while others appeal to one gender over another. Ultimately, the truly 'social' aspects of social media, the ones that make it work just the right way, are the ones that really aren't measurable in a statistical, numeric way--partly because we can't track *every* single stat (as I note here) but also because some things about us, that make our blogs work, defy measurement :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Journalism Moving Forward, Journalism Staring Backward

Between yesterday and today, two links came across my Facebook homepage that gave some indication how journalism might move forward and what might happen if it keeps staring backward to a Time just about Forgotten...

The first link was to Jay Rosen's announcement of his new journalism experiment will attempt to combine reporting and social networking. David Cohn (former Assignment Zero colleague) sums it up nicely: is the third major project of NewAssignment.Net, where we're trying to crack new media cases: pro-am journalism, distributed reporting, collaborative information gathering, blog-style reportage. We think the hyrbid forms are going to be the strongest forms, and this project is a clear test of that proposition. Check out both David and Jay's posts for more...

I've always agreed with both Jay and David on this--that the hybrid forms will eventually be the strongest--because hybrid ways, if managed properly, will get reporters back together with people in positive ways that do not exploit people for the sake of journalism's survival. (Almost forgot to mention OfftheBus, headded by my other Assignment Zero colleague, Amanda Michel, which appears to be going well...)

One of the main reasons that I continue to be supportive of Jay's efforts (as well as the efforts of guys like Dan Gillmor and JD Lasica) is their genuine desires to either listen to or work with people who are occupying this fascinating space we call the Internet. There's none of this trying to make people work with journalists in some kind of intellectual hothouse (or sweatshop, depending on how you want to look at it.) Jay's experiments are always designed to maintain a high ethical standard when it comes to how the two parties--the people and the press--are going to have a constructive and productive dialogue again....

Something that seems to have left journalism as it has more and more insisted on its practitioners having high-level journalism degrees in order to be able to get a position that will afford a decent adult living wage...

Which leads me to the second link, to Dick Feagler's column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Journalism can't be learned, it has to be lived....I loved reading these recollections from Mr. Feagle:
When I broke into this racket, more than 40 years ago, we weren't called journalists. We were called newspapermen. Even the women.

Now I hear you can get an advanced degree in journalism. Certainly a master's. Maybe even a Ph.D.

I don't know what they teach at journalism schools; I never went to one. To me, there is only one lesson you need in the trade of journalism: the libel law.

The rest of them - courses in "Ethics in Journalism," for example - are merely navel-gazing. Newspapering is a trade. And, like most trades, you learn it on the job.

Geeze, I love this stuff! I think about all those movies I saw as a kid, where the journalists were gruff, hardworking guys with seriously charming personalities (you had to have one of those in order to make both the mayor and warring city councilmen trust you.) These were guys and gals whom you could run into at the grocery store as much as you could run into them at a fire or accident scene.

But something happened somewhere in the 1970's and '80's--maybe it was Watergate, maybe it was the buying-up of small-town papers by big corporations, I don't know exactly--and we slowly started moving towards professionalizing--with expensive, high-level graduate degrees dominating what used to be seen by many as a "trade"...

As I went along reading Mr. Feagler's piece, I thought he might actually give bloggers a break. But he didn't.
Bloggers. Have they ridden with a candidate in the middle of the night? Have they covered the murder of a young girl lying dead in the grass but looking as if she's sleeping? Have they covered anything?

Well, all I can say to that screed is that it's pretty obvious that Mr. Fiegler doesn't know the many different bloggers that are out there--the ones who've started networks and citizen journalism sites and who have been fighting to get press creds to actually get on that darned bus he's talking about--only that it's often the snobby professionalists he disdains that have erected the "no entrance" barriers to bloggers.

Between Jay's announcement, and Dick's column, the true problems with the condition of journalism smacked me in the face like a cold fish: we can get things to change, but we have to get over the entrenched professionalism of the past 20-odd years that is blocking any sort of innovation and creative thinking that might bubble up from the people--who are the heirs to the trade, not the priesthood, of journalism....

But I fear that might not happen, as the Professional Class of journalists move into positions held by guys like Dick Feagler, and settle themselves in for the long haul.

Or are they?

Over the past year I've found out through my myriad of connections and more connections, that there are groups of mid-level journalists being either downsized or getting disgusted with journalism and moving into academia (or starting their own "citizen" outlets--think about know who I'm talking about...) Some of them are great innovators, who see the writing on the wall with new media and are really striving to teach their students about blogging and the myriad of other tools and tricks out on the Internet--the same tools that help students to socialize with friends may be just the same tools that help them out in their reporting later in their careers.

Then, of course, there are a few curmudgeons, who may see bloggers as the ruination of all journalism, Facebook as a place to keep tabs on their kids and students, and who just might feel that they as former journalists must teach the "masses" (to use Andrew Keen's term) how to make their blogging conform to the standards of journalism...

So, one thing we may all agree on is that the solution to the future of journalism is far from near, but at least there are some brave folks trying new stuff, including some of the "unwashed masses" (who are often former members of the priesthood--if you think about it...) And in this space, there seem to be two paths in journalism right now--one that looks forward to getting reporters back in touch with people, and another that stands still, continuing to block innovation and creativity in order to preserve journalism's ivory-tower professionalization...

So, are you moving forward, or are you standing with your back against the wall, staring backward....

Just my $.02

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Arrington Controversy--and Why I Didn't Go to the BlogWorld Expo

Since yesterday, I've been following the ensuing kerfuffle over Mike Arrington not showing up at at the BlogWorldExpo that just finished in Las Vegas...

And, quite honestly, I thought it was a little weird when I first saw Mike's name on the roster--given his dislike of PayPerPost and PPP holding its first PostieCon right *after* BWE....(thus leveraging BWE...)

I had my own misgivings about BWE when I first heard about it--and got an "invitation" in my Facebook email from someone involved with organizing the conference...

I thought "cool! wonder what panel I'll be on"--because I usually don't get "invitations" unless it's to be on a panel. I always figured that's what an "invitation" was about. Turns out that's not what this "invitation" was about. Just something (some might call spam) telling me about the conference. Which I'd already heard about anyway. My ear's never too far from the conference ground...

So, I thought about the roster--and sessions--and it was a whole lot of stuff I'd heard before at so many other conferences. Some of it was even stuff I wrote non-blog articles about. So I felt it'd be better to spend my limited pennies somewhere else.

Besides, I wasn't really looking forward to talking with people who would say "oh! I'm a blogger too!" and then hand me a business card with a URL to nowhere, or use my business card as an excuse to spam me with their newsletters, or just talk about how their blog was going to make them money without even thinking about their blog's impact on other things than their pocketbook....

It then hit me what was bugging me about the whole BWE--the emphasis on monetization. Yes, there seemed to be some lipservice to ethics and such, but the overall sense seemed to be about how to make scads of money from blogging and how to turn yourself into a blog superstar.

Now, there's nothing wrong with wanting to make money from blogging--but it's *how* one wants to make that money. Money from blogging doesn't come easily. It takes a lot of hard--very, very hard--work.

Which brings me back to Mike...I read thru his Crunchnotes post, and honestly, I got where he was coming from. Maybe there was a miscommunication--it looks right now as if the right answer to the question of whether or not there was a mix up in communication will be contingent on who's side the reader wants to take on the matter.

But just maybe he is fed up with the whole conference thing....

Personally, I'd rather NOT see him at a conference then find myself seeing him AGAIN and smacking myself in the head and saying to the guy next to me "geeze, why doesn't that blowhard sit down and give someone else a shot at the podium..." ;-)

Yes, I can hear you saying "well, maybe blog conferences aren't for you any m ore." Maybe so. Which is another reason why I didn't go to BWE. It wasn't for me.

All bloggers are not created equal--even if they all use the same tools...

That all depends on where--and whom--we want to be in This Space...

So, in some way maybe BWE wasn't for Mike either. But his at least his "invitation" was a real one...

Further reading: Another interesting take on BWE from Chris Brogan--read the comments. There's good thinking going on there....

Update Rick Calvert, one of BWE's organizers explains the miscommunication that lead to Mike not showing up.

I just wish Rick would have advised his people not to have used the word "invitation" when they sent out their notification spam. Seriously. That's just insulting and, well, mean.

Update 11/21.07 Spoke this afternoon with Rick Calvert, who I seem to see eye to eye with on a number of issues...discussed the "invite" thing, and found out it was not from someone in his organization. So, it was simply someone using the word "invite" when he should have said "thought you might be interested in this." Yes, some might see this as a semantic argument, but, honestly, it makes a difference--how are we supposed to know if we're actually "invited?"

If you're sending off a conference announcement to a friend because you think that person might like to go, please say that you're just passing along the info, or "thought you might be interested"--don't "invite" or anything like that. Save the word "invite" for the folks sending out the stuff for speakers, thankyouverymuch.

Overall, I get what Rick's trying to do, and we'll hopefully have some productive conversations in the near future.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Blog-iversary (to me)!

Believe it or not, I've been blogging for a full three years now...but don't look for confirmation of that in this blog's's the story so far...:

Three years ago I started blogging because I was a frustrated, unpublished writer whom everybody thought might end up like Emily Dickinson (only in black) if I didn't do something about it. My personal blog--which ended up getting stalked by two individuals--was shut down just this past summer. Mostly because I wasn't free to write what I wanted about my life anymore without *someone* *somewhere* getting really pissed off at me...

But I accomplished far more than I thought I could in three years.

No, I never published a book. But I did manage to create something that has, IMO, just as much value: influence....(and a seriously tiny career in new media)

and it's been an amazing journey...

Which has gone something like this: I wrote stuff about my life (sometimes graphically and rather personally) and made a bunch of friends.

I then made a bunch of friends in High Places because I went to some conferences. I asked for press passes to conferences, and got them (oddly.)

I started another blog (this one) because someone said that my personal blog wouldn't fit in his blogroll, but if I did something else, he might include me. Which he did.

Then, somewhere, somehow, I got a contract writing for something Corante was doing--and I'm still really not sure how that happened. Maybe it had something to do with showing up at some really small conferences where there were a bunch of Heavy Thinkers.

Then again, maybe it was my writing.

I kinda had a tough time with blogging for a network, because nobody had expected me to actually *blog* for someone else--and get paid for it. And doing something for someone else always requires following rules.

Which I'm not real good at. And sometimes forget to ask for help to understand the rules...

I kept going to conferences--I went to tech conferences and marketing conferences and journalism conferences. And I met a lot more really cool people.

A lot of really interesting and cool people. Many of whom are my Facebook friends and who remember me when I see them.

And I got to speak at some of the conferences I went to...

Think I got there with some help from my Friends...:-)

I then got to write for the Huffington Post,
and there were some other things...
I worked on Assignment Zero...
and helped out with We Media Miami...

And I kept writing. and that pissed some people off.
but everybody can't love me.
and sometimes I genuinely disagree with people,
even if I like them IRL,
and I'm not going to not tell them that every utterance is a great idea.

That wouldn't be me. Even if that's what they want to hear.

Truth to Power? Maybe...

Then some other people *really* started to take me seriously. Maybe it's because I say things that make sense--because I understand people in This Space.

Maybe, again, it was my writing.

But I have a little trouble merging This Space and IRL. It's that Rules thing, I think.

It's part of why I started blogging in the first place--because I just didn't get IRL and I felt people didn't take me seriously IRL. And weren't going to make a space for me IRL.

But IRL still impacts this space, and I'm learning a lot about IRL these days.

That's why I haven't been blogging so much these days. Trying to adjust to a certain synthesis between IRL and This Space and how it all might work to create money...

I've always seen This Space as a space of Ideas. Community. and Creativity. A Gathering-Place of people--some disaffected, some looking for a new "home." Some have drawn the analogy between the Internet and the Wild West--and in many ways, they're right. Not because it's lawless, but because it's generative and creative, where some of us can grow and become something that the mass media world we were born into wasn't going to allow us to become.

The mass media world grew too many gatekeepers with too many rules that kept way too many of us feeling as if we'd never Become....that we'd only be Also Rans...dead cut flowers in the bud phase...

And some of us just weren't meant to be Also Rans... or pretty unopened buds...even if we can't get with The Rules...

Maybe there are just too many of the wrong rules, and too many gatekeepers worrying too much about illusions of control...

But are we in a space where our wildest dreams really can come true?

Perhaps we should be careful what we dream about...
when we're in here.
Maybe the "walls" have ears...
and they talk back...

Perhaps you'd agree, it's been a fascinating three years....

Who knew?
I didn't.

Who knows?
I don't--that's for sure....I'm just here for the next destination...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Taken Down a Peg (or 2) as Google Page Rank Drops for Many

At first, I thought it was just because I hadn't posted in two weeks--that drop in Google Page rank from a comfy 5 to a lowly 4--but apparently, it's not just me... (update I'm now back up to 5--who knows what will happen tomorrow...)

Among all the questions and explanations swirling out there, I've found two that correspond to something I've been seeing (and was going to blog about before this stuff hit the fan) First, Andy Beard explains that it may not be about paid links, but more about all those little blog networks that link within and to one another:
Many of the reputable sources that have received a penalty are part of extensive blog networks, and they have one factor in common. They have massive interlinking between their network sites.

Lately, I've been working on a couple of projects where I've been doing heavy blog research--and I've been finding that many of the blogs in a variety of blog networks are increasingly blocking out the voices of independent bloggers And that they do this by linking predominantly--if not exclusively--to other blogs in their networks and never to other bloggers

Talk about anti-social media!

A big hint of the anti-socialness of some blog networks became evident to me in a post I read a few months back by a blogger who's keeping the weblogs page--who gave a list of "great" women bloggers, with most of them in b5Media. To my experienced blogger's eyes, this seemed to be a rather ham-handed way of using one's platform to send eyeballs over to one's other blog network. It was, IMO, mean-spirited and rather un-social toward the vast amount of independent women bloggers who have worked darned hard to give/get their links, rank, and respect.

Yet the only-linking-to-others-within-your-own-network was noticed awhile back with the start of PayPerPost. PPP was "threatened" that they would never get linked by bloggers who weren't in their scheme (because there was something kinda ethically icky about PPP.) But they did some serious recruiting (a lot among mommybloggers, for sure.) Now, "Posties" are having Postiecon as well as (perhaps) taking up a significant presence at the BlogWorldExpo....(they've also generated their own little A-list that would send many a veteran blogger's head spinning.)

And, from my own hanging about at conferences where Posties have showed up, I've discovered that many of the Posties never would have thought of blogging if they weren't going to make some pin money for doing it...

I wonder how they feel about talking to folks who aren't their friends...

Duncan Riley's post explains a bit further about linkfarming, and how smaller media companies that may be (intentionally or unintentionally) linkfarming by only linking within one another's sites might really take a hit:
The only clear change appears to be among large scale blog networks and similar link farms, where each site in the network provides hundreds of outgoing links on each page of the blog to other blogs in the network, in some cases creating tens, even hundred of thousands of cross links. Previously such behavior has been rewarded by Google with high page rank, although it would now appear that this loop hole may now be shut

Riley also predicts a "deadpool" of blog networks--read the comments though, there are some interesting points made by folks who've monetized out the wazoo as a means of trying to generate income for their small ventures.

Well, nobody ever promised anyone who kept a blog that they could or should use it for making money....

And nobody ever said that blog networks should be able to mess with search by implementing kick-ass SEO and aggressive internal linking.

Come to think of it, that's kind of what a lot of MSM blogs are doing--and that's why many MSM blogs, such as those at, always come up in the prime spots in search.

So, perhaps in its own weird way, Google's put the breaks on something that was, from my vantage point, beginning to look like a case of Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss with blog networks eclipsing smaller, individually run blogs.

Yet I hesitate to say that Google's any defender of the Little Guy and Free Speech. Perhaps it was merely a jiggle of the algorithm to accommodate a bunch of new stuff, and not anything to do with linkfarms or paid I remain kind of dubious and mostly curious....

Update: SearchEngineLand's great linkpost of those-who-got-zapped and links to other commentary...and fellow journo-blogger Danny Sanchez notes the effect on newspaper blogs (and how he's just as important as WaPo!)

Friday, October 05, 2007

Nurturing Soul, Body, and Mind

Note: this is an occasional personal post--the idea for which I got from my friend Chris Brogan's post on managing his life. this is kind of about managing something in my life...)

A fortnight or so ago, while I was in New York, with a couple of hours to kill before I was to catch a train back to Springfield, I took a detour to the Museum of Modern Art...I hadn't been there for quite awhile--at least not since the remodelling...

And something happened to me there....

First, there was some kind of sense of relief just to be there. Like I'd happened upon an oasis--and in many respects, MoMA is, for me, an oasis. Out where I live, I'm pretty much removed from stuff like this. There may be some small galleries, and all the colleges have art museums, but growing up in New Jersey, about 30-40 minutes outside of New York (if you could avoid the traffic), I grew up with the hum of The City in my head all the time.

Even if you don't live in the heart of it, the hum of The City gets in your veins, in your head, in your heart, and you can't escape it. Some folks hide from it by focusing on the negative aspects--crime and, in this century, the remote possibility of a terrorist attack--but there's more life to The City than there could ever be in the bedroom communities that support it.

It's worth the risk. To me, anyway.

As I wandered the galleries, I saw so many images
that got me thinking "In this place resides some of the most important thougths, philosophies, and ideals of the last 100 years. All those wild artistic movements, conceived by so many people who wanted the world to change..."

I thought more about where we're at now with the Internet--in so many ways similar to what happened in art at the turn of the last century....

I kept breathing in That Space...all my knowledge of art history enlightening every piece that almost seemed like I was seeing for the first time when I really wasn't...

I'd seen lots of these works before I knew what they were about. In the 80's--before I went to college and studied art history--I'd spent lots of time here, watching the Warhols and Picassos and Klimts and deKoonigs....

And Pollocks.... This Pollock especially....

The first time I saw it was when I was about 19--with my first husband---and he was explaining to me the importance of the work...which I thought just looked like bird droppings on canvas...(what did I know--a working class kid who wasn't supposed to do much other than have babies...)

and then it hit me....

Sometimes in our lives we meet people who teach us things about ourselves. The bring out of the child the adult we might become. My first husband was a young artist and filmmaker. He ended up going into graphic arts--but it paid the bills (he was designing book covers last time we spoke 15 yrs ago.) But he'd studied art history, and taking me places like MoMa and to the Regency Theater to see Dr. Strangelove and so many other things were not just ways of teaching me about his world...

But they ended up being things that are About Me.

Things that, through years of lousy relationships and hard, focused work, I'd forgotten about.

Essentially, I'd forgotten my Soul. I came to MoMA with a starving soul, an under-nourished place inside me that had pretty much dried up (for one reason or another) and here it was, right in front of me in that godawful Jackson Pollock painting all the memories of who I was...

And who I am.

It was like waking up after a very long and difficult dreamstate. It was also realizing that I'd sent myself into exile, drove myself away from the things I loved--and for many reasons, none of which I'll recount here....

What happened though was the realization that I'd been completely neglecting My Soul. Sure, my Body is getting nourished daily, and I am in very good health for the most part. And my Mind is certainly nourished--almost to the point of me wishing there was something like Over-Readers Anonymous for those of us who can't break the compulsion for gathering Information...

But my Soul--all those many things my young husband brought to life in me, and other things I found out and nourished in myself during my long illness--had been shuttered and pushed away. My love of art and culture and philosophy and needlework and cooking and so many other things that I really don't have anyone close to share with...or at least not anyone who is that Soul Mate...

So, what to do, now that I know this?

I got to re-thinking that old adage of nourishing one's mind, body, and soul, and the need to keep balance. Right now, the first two are nourished--the third is starving. What to do?

Well, lots of people have lots of answers for this. Take up yoga. or running.Join a group of some kind that will go here or there.

IMO it's more that I have to touch that part of me again, get re-acquainted with it, nurture it. The nurturing won't come from outside sources. That's just adding lots of noise to the signal.

Just the way I have to make time in my day for lunch and dinner (when I'm working alone) I have to recognize when I'm soul-starving and do something about it. I have to turn off the computer--walk away--go to where I can nourish that part of me...

Luckily, I'm starting to get paid for work I'm doing...and getting more work. And while the money is coming in, I'm going to make time to take myself to NYC. To push myself away from the desk and the computer. To not even take the computer with me. And go.

Go to where my soul (and my heart) reside. Go to that place where I can touch life's waters and let them flow into me. Go to that place where I can wake up and embrace life in all its craziness and creativity, and excitement and jubilance...

I've been starving too long. I've been in exile too long. And if I can't live there--because lord knows it's so darned expensive--then I can at least visit from time to time. Stop denying myself that one simple pleasure--because there's more in that pleasure than there is in any of the others I can embrace.

In nurturing my Soul again, I hope to better nurture my Mind and my Body.

We'll see what happens next...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hartford Courant Forums: "Incivil" or Just a Really Loud Conversation?

UPDATE 6/17/08: Something has gone totally wrong with the Courant's boards. Mayor Eddie Perez called for the Courant to ban "what he calls 'racist hate speech' in the discussion forums" Governments shouldn't intervene in the business of the newspaper--and the newspaper should sufficiently police its own forums. In this case, the relationship with Topix may result in dire consequences for the Courant.

In her Sunday column, Hartford Courant reader representative Karen Hunter discussed (or is it kvetched about?) the how the Courant's Reader Forums are a terribly nasty place:
I have to admit I don't wander light-heartedly through The Courant's online forums. When a reader asks, I will take a look for an exceptionally rough exchange. Sometimes the callers are the targets of the slings. Many times I hear from readers who have no connection to a story but are repulsed that The Courant would host such uncivil discourse

The Courant's Forum "experiment" (as Hunter referred to it) is only about 8 months old. Not long in the life of a newspaper forum--so I was particularly bothered by Hunter's words, not to mention what appears to be the small fact that she really doesn't spend time there other than to follow up on someone's email to her about the forums...

How odd--going to your own newspaper's Forums only because someone else is requesting you to do so! This most certainly will lead to an inability to fully comprehend the community that's developed on those forums.

Wanting to know more about how "incivility" on a eight-month old forum could make a paper's reader representative tremble in fear and loathing, I started to poke around more on the H.C. site, just to see for myself what the deal was (as I am rather fearless of online forums--remembering the rule of "lurk before posting.") I found some things that, on the one hand, could be contributing to the incivility, and, on another, be nothing more than a viewpoint distortion based on the columnist's squeamishness (or is it dashed hopes?) about online discourse.

First, the Forums are pretty difficult to find from the Hartford Courant's main page. Looking around, I found nowhere to click into them. And no indication that they're hosted on either. Maybe the Courant announced this little feature when they first launched the forums, but if I was just moving to Hartford and wanted this sort of thing from the H.C., I'd have no idea that the Forums even existed.

Which raises the question: why might the Hartford Courant's forums be hosted on anyway? Well, money *could* be a consideration. Sometimes it's difficult to cobble a forum feature onto the back end of another platform--costly, and like putting an Continental kit on the back of a '56 Cadillac.
Topix might have given the H.C. a good deal for hosting their forums--maybe some administrative guidance, too. Hunter writes about assoc. online editor Paul Stern's interactions with Topix administrators: "Almost on a daily basis I ask the Topix administrators to permanently ban posters who are particularly offensive. The Topix folks always oblige, though the offending users often return from a different computer and we have to ban them again.

Well, the Topix folks *should* oblige. The H.C. Forum IS hosted on their site. (still, this was a really crummy, half-measure for having forums--and could indirectly contribute to the incivility--as there are no rules handed down from the H.C. directly to their commenters. This is often the case with newspaper forums. And, if you don't give people rules--as well as good moderation--you're setting yourself up for failure.)

Now, because I was so interested in the H.C.'s online conversation, I wondered how the heck I could get from Hunter's article to the entire Forum. To get there, I had to first go to the reader comments--which I could reach by clicking on the "Read all 106 Comments" line at in the comments box at the bottom of the post.
Or, I could click where it says "reader feedback" in the Article Tools box on the upper right hand side of the article. To get to the list of all the "reader comments" I could click on either the word "Forum" in the upper left corner or, in the little gray box on the right, click "Posted in the Hartford Courant Forum" (you can see those features in the pic.)

So, once I figured out how to negotiate the Courant's Forum space, I ventured in to see what was going on....and quite frankly, from the perspective of someone who's been doing the whole online communication thing for close to ten years now, the Courant's Forums are doing ok. They are NOT as "incivil" as Karen Hunter believes them to be. Here's the Forum Main Page--you'll notice that there are one-hundred (100?!?) active topics just on this page alone--and most receiving comments within the past two hours! And take a look at the numbers of comments

What they've got over on the Hartford Courant's Forums is a a lively community--yes, there are folks who are really off-base, some who are just hot-headded, and others who act as good community police by calling out the offenders.

More importantly, there's lots of really good online conversation. It's not all horrors...

Stern isn't alone--maybe he just hasn't figured out that he's got allies in there. Although when he says ""I kill a dozen or so bad posts on a typical day - sometimes many more..." you'd *think* he was totally alone. I wonder if he really even knows there are folks out there helping him. And, that when conversation gets really heated on particular issues (racism appears to be a very contentious topic in the region the H.C. covers) it's the moderator's job to delete stuff!

Yet when a Forum has so many stories with active comments, the numbers of comments to be deleted will, more than likely, be high. That's just a numbers game.

So, how might the Courant deal with the nasty-commenter numbers game?:
More monitoring would be ideal, but the reality is the volume of comments and staffing priorities prevent that.
It's more like the H.C. probably doesn't have the money to pull in seasoned community moderators who might actually like having the job.

The solution: Stern has campaigned for an end to anonymous postings.

Well...there goes the all the "nice" people will take over...

(please take a look at the comments to Hunter's post to read what the people not only know but think of anonymous posting. Pretty smart stuff overall. Dare I say smarter than the Courant Staff???)

Hunter then goes on to quote a true authority on the goings on of online life and anonymity, Andrew Keen:
think the most corrosive thing of today's Internet is anonymity," Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture," told NewsHour Senior Correspondent Jeffrey Brown.

"That's what's creating such an uncivil world. It's a pre-social contract place. It's a state of nature. We're not behaving ourselves properly on it, very often because we don't reveal who we are. Much of the most uncivil conversation, much of the unpleasantness of the Internet is carried out by people who won't reveal who they are."

Now, I have nothing against Keen, and I think he's often a good antidote to a lot of the Silicon Valley hype, but he's way off on this one. And is, overall, playing into the ignorance and fear of online communities that so many online community newbies (people and news orgs alike) have about them.

Keen never refers to the importance of anonymity in places where people are oppressed or where they fear retribution. As I found from reading the H.C. Forums, there are people who fear reprisals from law enforcement(probably justly)--and, I'm sure, some who might fear reprisals from employers if they posted under their real names.

Now, if the Courant really wants a solution, they should look at what their readers are saying in the comments and take both Hunter and Stern's opinions only as part of the solution. From the comments, it appears that many readers wouldn't mind a registration mechanism that allowed also for screen names--as long as they were assured their information might never be turned over to outside and third parties. Still, I think the better antidote would be a better understanding of what goes on in online communities as well as more moderation of the boards. These are super-active boards, and one or two people just isn't enough. Overwork could lead someone like Stern to figure that if they posted under their real names, everything would be hunky-dory.

No--that would just make the H.C.'s Forums into a happy-happy-joy-joy echo chamber. Sanitized For Your Protection.

Right now they've got evolving conversation and community--just like in a diner or in a barroom (well, in some comments sections, more like a barroom at 2a.m...)

Because the staff is overworked and (probably) underpaid doesn't merit censoring the community.

Perhaps Hunter should put down the Keen and read a bit of Shirky about online communities and Weinberger on the importance of anonymity. Then try going into the boards as a lurker, just listening to understand what people are talking about, not looking for things to react to.

Maybe she'll change her mind. I hope so--for the community's sake.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Techmeme Leaderboard Goes Live!

And a large swath of the blogosphere just got jumpier than a cat in a roomfull of rocking chairs....some even declaring the end of blogging....

But seriously, Gabe Rivera announced said Leaderboard with an explanation that kind of reminded me of Technorati's Top 100, and then Feedster's 500 (what happened to Feedster anyway??)....

Gabe's pulling no punches, however, and being quite open about how Techmeme and the Leaderboard are biased:
I wish it were obvious, but there's no such thing as an unbiased automated news site (or search engine for that matter). Automation doesn't remove bias, it merely obscures it. The configurations that make Techmeme a tech news site embody some of that bias. Beyond that, headlines are also skewed by Techmeme's emphasis of business news over areas like video game reviews, developer news, gadget arcana, and green tech. Finally, influencers that communicate mainly in links don't figure prominently on Techmeme. Slashdot is widely read, yet absent from the top 100.

The great thing about Gabe's transparency is that there's no way that folks who don't blog about business or tech can bitch and moan about not being aggregated by Techmeme. We *know* that it's rigged. And knowing it's rigged makes it a *tad* easier to digest...

and I say a *tad* because, well, as my friend Jeneane Sessum astutely observes:
I see two things: high profile traditional media outlets and a lot of popular white tech guys. Where are the Michelle Arringtons? The Darla Winers? The Jackie Jarvises? The GigaOphelias? Dude, who moved my uterus?

Good point, Jeneane--although danah's in there, and Kara Swisher (more women in the groupblogs though.) But, you're right too that, aside from this danah and Kara, there probably won't be any of us up there any time soon. (although it's mighty weird to see the Associated Press in there--yeah, your right about meet-the-new-boss-same-as-the-old-boss. Would be nice if the Girls could innovate a tech-based group blog! ha!)

It's not that women aren't good solo bloggers--and not that women *aren't* visible in the blogosphere...we're just not bloggin-a-plenty on tech and business.

In fact, it seems that women have constructed their own (possibly countable) corner of the blogosphere over at BlogHer where there is much discussion about the things lots of women bloggers are into. (the Blogher 100?? I wouldn't make that one either.)

Oh, let's face it Jeneane, there aren't a lot of us kinda geeky types who care about the latest wankings about Facebook or the latest piece of technological kitsch that's going to make a bunch of folks heavy sigh today and cry tomorrow (when their investment goes out the window...See this about Skype.) Lots of women bloggers don't give a darned about what Michael Arrington says because they're more concerned about the babies in their laps or the sturm und drang of their dating lives.

Or food. Lots of women food bloggers, too.

Now, don't get me wrong--I used to write a lot about my own messy relationship sturm und drang until I figured out that there weren't all that many women listening to me--and that I could have more fun (and links and influence, more or less)blogging about guy-type stuff.

And I started getting aggregated by Techmeme :-)

Dan Farber's piece on the Leaderboard relies heavily on something Scoble said about the Leaderboard-- the possible "death" of blogging, and how *everybody* who's *anybody* is going to Twitter....

Well, not really. Sure, there's lots of folks on Twitter. But I'm not on Twitter. Not a lot of the people I know from blogging or other social media hangouts are on Twitter--and for lots of reasons. So, maybe Robert's friends trump my friends for A-listyness--but who knows...

And does it really matter? Is it really all about one's friends and fans and family--or is it all about influence and getting contracts and making the grade to become eligible for BlogAds? These are two different things, really...

Although things have definitely shifted in blogging--and Lisa Williams and I felt the shift. We were talking about it earlier tonight in reference to our own feelings about our blogs. We were both saying how blogging's now part of a larger landscape of "social media." Now there are many ways of reaching out to friends and expressing oneself and one's thoughts. Even the blogosphere itself is more fractured, with a marketing sphere, and a political sphere, and a "mommy sphere, and a tried-and-true tech sphere, and a blogging-for-bucks sphere--and the folks of one sphere often don't meet, greet, nor interact with one another.

As I learned at the last BlogHer conference, you can be an influencer and know tons of people and yet if you're not blogging about your kids, you can be totally anonymous in a roomful of other bloggers...

All depends on the blogger's priorities--and the group to whit she/he is accepted.

An odd statement from Robert, though: [I] noticed that it has very few bloggers on it — I can only see about 12 real blogs on that list.....

Aside from the fact that there are a lot of msm sits, the fact that there are very few solo bloggers is something I noticed about the top of the Technorati Top 100 sometime back--when all of a sudden, Huffington Post, in less than a year, was in the top 10. H.P was *never* a solo blog. And, from that point on, the majority of the "top" blogs of the Top 100 were group blogs (with the exception of the Asian blogs that broke the top 100 in Feb '06--none of the white guys could figure that one out.) Part of that shift had to do with posting frequency--group blogs could churn out more posts than single person blogs, thus generate more links. The great blog BoingBoing was at the top spot for *the longest* time, and it was never a single-person voice-in-the-wilderness blog.

Frankly, since I've been blogging (since November '04--on the shuttered personal blog), it's been darned hard for a single-person voice-in-the-wilderness blog to crack the Technorati Top 100. That was one thing many of us bitched and moaned about because of the whole notion of permalinks being cumulative along with postlinks left us rather screwed. If you started in '04, there was little likelihood that you'd be able to catch up with someone who, say, started in '01.

That is, unless you group-blogged-it, like Huffington...and put out huge press Huffington...and had all sorts of celebrity-blogger names you could have post to your Huffington...

So, the blogosphere as some folks knew it, was never really the blogosphere as I knew it. Although I have managed to get my squeaky voice heard out there. And get some decent perks for it. Which I think is pretty darned amazing...

So, I say, good luck with the Leaderboard, Gabe. And who knows..maybe, if I keep this blogging thing up, I just might break this top 100. (but I won't hold my breath on that one...I know better now...)

Update: I forgot to mention that there are *more* lists out there that impact which blogs get traffic and links--two notables from the marketing 'sphere are the AdAge Power 150 and the W List of women bloggers (which is also a meme that started circulating around mid Aug--See Toby Bloomberg's post which is where I found out about it.) There's also 2K Bloggers which made a number of people very upset when it launched (saying it would "game" Technorati--when, in fact, Technorati had already been "gamed" by splogs that ended up adding specious links to already established high-ranking blogs.) Yet the tech 'sphere hardly commented on these. Perhaps this is a symptom that tech is now its own niche in the long tail, and that there's just no way for one standard Top 100 list to rule the entire blogosphere. More on this later.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: the Facebook/LinkedIn Potential ShootOut and What We Might Lose

There are a whole lot of us caught in the crossfire of words about how one social networking platform is going to "kill" the other, which, quite honestly, won't be good for the majority of us....Let me explain...

First, I'm glad that LinkedIn now enables us to upload photographs! And Adam Nash explains, in part, why it took so long to do so:
However, before we could add photos to the site, we had to give considerable thought to the best way to integrate photos into a professional site. Privacy is an incredibly important issue to us, and we wanted to make sure we had the right controls in place. As a result, all members will have the option to control whether their photo is visible to their connections, their network, or everyone.

What Adam's talking about here are concerns that adults have when using social networking platforms. Adults who are building careers in "traditional" or "legacy" (read: conservative-thinking, which is most) businesses have very good reasons for making sure that their privacy is guarded, that maybe some people can't see their photos, and that the photos present the right image.

No pics of drunken frathouse beer-busts nor of doing "body-shots" off your sorority sisters's belly-buttons thankyouverymuch. Those won't help you land a job in investment banking....

LinkedIn isn't about mating-and-dating or make-new-friends-but-keep-the-old or of our profs finding better ways to connect with us outside of class--it's about business and networking for business. It's about finding jobs.

I wonder though: do our young men at Facebook really know all that much about that kind of thing? Or about the life-relationship-friend kind of thing that, in adulthood, has far more shades of gray than it did in college...

Which leads me to the latest on Facebook: the addition of feature for grouping your friends. This app will supposedly help us "group" our friends and make it easier to manage them. Stowe Boyd makes an important point about this when he says we want "groupings"--tagging "our friends with as many associations as we like..." so that "we can share things in the most flexible ways possible."

This would be nice, and could help those who use Facebook for *everything* manage their space. But should we keep all of our online selves on Facebook in the first place? Sure, that may be fine for some of the elites of Silicon Valley, but when I think about it, do they keep all of *themselves* online on Facebook? One of the many things adulthood has taught me is that, sometimes, people *say* they're completely transparent when, in fact, they aren't. This may sound sexist, but I've often found that it's men who are great at compartmentalizing--so great that I think it's lead to the phrase "the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

We all have dark sides. We all have secrets. Our lives often are shades of gray. It is in negotiating the complexities of adulthood that we learn the importance of privacy.

Maybe it's because we've had a younger generation grow up with adults prying into their lives as never before that we're now seeing a generation of young people, many of whom are now developing the same types of platforms and apps we use daily, who belive that we simply have to get used to having less and less privacy.

This is very, very scary.

Donna Bogotan took a couple of good shots at Facebook...notably calling out Fortune's David Kirkpatrick on his "swooning" over Facebook/Zuckerberg. I really get Bogotan's ire. There's too much hoo-ha over new ways Facebook would like to intrude on our lives, and there may be reasons for this that have little to do with making our online social lives easier. There could be (as Bogotan raises in her post on Kirkpatrick) some very nasty stuff that might "aid" marketers while invading our privacy:
Kirkpatrick (in Forutne): The Internet is rapidly moving toward a world in which advertisers are able to target their messages to those most likely to be responsive. While this is often painted as an invasion of privacy, in fact it is a service…the ads we see will quite often be ads that convey the information we want. If software algorithms can help marketers identify what sorts of goods and services we are most likley to buy, it is a benefit, not an intrusion

Hmmm...can anyone say The Pudding"? Can anyone see a linkup between The Pudding's services and Facebook???

Yet Bogotan's also levelled a scathing indictment of Nick O'Neill's post re Facebook's new "killer" app (the whole "groupings" thing.) O'Neill likes to be a cheerleader for Facebook--and maybe in being a cheerleader he's also an influencer. But I wonder the level of impact his cheerleading will have on the world outside of the Silicon Valley.

I'm more concerned about what Kirkpatrick is saying and doing. He's got a bigger megaphone--mainstream media--thus a bigger audience and, dare I say, far bigger influence (contrary to popular beliefs about the demise of msm.)

As for me, I'm becoming *very* concerned abuot what sorts of apps Facebook's adopting, and about its talks with Google. I am extremely concerned about the invasion of privacy thing, as much as I am about NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation of Facebook. I am also saddened that I might have to (at some point in time) pare down my Facebook profile and delete some of the personal things I've put on it--stuff that's actually been a nice way of letting some of my business contacts know more about me--because it may become "inappropriate information."

I don't agree with Kirkpatrick: I don't want to be advertised to at every turn of the corner I make online. I don't want "targeted" advetising period.

And I want both LinkedIn *and* Facebook to thrive because, unlike O'Neill, I understand the shades of gray of adulthood. I like the separation of church (personal life) and state (business life.) That's the only way I can have the "freedom" to be myself online.

Think about it.

Update Alan Patrick notes that if ".. one is a "less favoured friend of X" may make one sever ties, or - worse from Facebooks point of view - lose interest in the whole thing." hmmm...well, maybe it will cause a decrease in hype, that's for sure. and Muhammad Saleem thinks about the targeted advertising thing, too.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

CT Forum to Host Newmark, Boyd and Wales on the Tech Revolution

If you happen to be in the vicinity of the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, CT next Wednesday, Oct. 3, you may want to check out Tech Revolution--a panel discussion between Craig, danah and Jimmy and moderated by Jonathan Zittrain....

The panel was put together by the good folks of the Connecticut are $55, $45, and $25 and it appears they're still available.

me?...I may be on my way to Somewhere Else...or working on another proposal....but I'm glad to see those great folks out in my neck of the woods! It's about time someone hosted this kind of a panel out here, and to esp. discuss the world of social media,--which seems, in the minds of most folks, to be confined to the realm of MySpace. Oh, it's a lot more than that for sure!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Trolls, Civility, and the Right to Challenge the Status Quo

My friend Adam Tinworth, who blogs at One Man and his Blog recently wrote about Andrew Keen's The Cult of the Amateur, and mentioned how some folks call Keen a "troll"---"Well, here's the thing. Many people on the leading edge of the Web 2.0 movement think we should ignore Mr Keen and his polemic about the horrific consequences for our culture of participatory web culture. "He's just a troll," they cry. "Don't feed him."...The problem is that he's far from alone in his views..."

Now, I've heard this myself about Keen--and other than the fact that he's not a tall guy, Keen really isn't a "troll" in the true and traditional Internet community use of the word.

Quite frankly, the term is nowadays being thrown around far too loosely and is being used--along with the "incivility" argument--as a way of silencing disagreement or challenge to thought of bloggers we may find ourselves in disagreement with.

It seems that now, we should only say Nice Things all the time. We must only post comments in agreement--there is no room for Calling It Like It Is...because this is "Incivil" and "troll-like" behavior...

Now, let's get back to clarifying the troll thing.

If you've spent any significant time online, in the pre-"social media" and pre-Sierra Affair days, you'd know that a "troll" was an entity--not a person--who'd come on to a newsgroup or message board or a blog or anywhere where people would gather. There were several ways to know a troll. The first, and most glaringly obvious, is that a troll will never post under his/her real name. Trolls are usually anonymous or pseudonymous Back in The Day when *everyone* used a screen name, telling a troll took a bit of time. If you were a regular part of a community, even a "newbie" could look like a troll. That's part of why there has been so much debate over the years over anonymous comments and transparency (yes, some of it has to do with credibility, but it also has to do with troll-slaying.)

Yet now, even if people are signing real name posts that question or challenge a fellow blogger, they, like Andrew Keen, can find themselves called a "troll." When they are clearly NOT a troll--as in the traditional sense of the word--because they are bothering to reveal their true identity. (please note that there are still a preponderance of anonymous or pseudonymous trolls--it takes awhile to understand a troll in context and syntax. most people just haven't had the requisite amount of time online or in communities to understand these subtleties. hence it makes it so easy to call someone a "troll" who isn't.)

What a "snarky commenter" is, then, doing is challenging the thought of the person who made the post. This person may take serious umbrage over being challenged. Many people cannot handle a challenge (even some very high profile people--who seem to be getting far more sensitive these days) and are now resorting to either calling others "trolls" or claiming "you're being incivil!"

Therefore, the most important reason we should not throw the "t" word around is that it will eventually inhibit discourse. It will create more and more echo chambers because no one will be able to say anything Not Nice. The result will be that we'll have more and more people claiming that blogs are echo chambers--now, with proof that they're echo chambers.

Just because no one disagrees with you doesn't mean everybody thinks your right.

If we cannot disagree with someone's blog post without being called a troll (or without getting attacked, or called incivil, as what happened to me recently) then we're in serious trouble.

So, Andrew Keen isn't a troll--but he is challenging the happy-happy-joy-joy status quo of Silicon Valley. If we don't like what he says, we don't have to link to him, nor to post about him. But he's not a "troll."

Now that we've got that cleared up, I'd like to move on to Aldon Hynes' post letting the catchy and snarky become the enemy of the good”. In the post, Aldon writes why he's taking a break from the political blogosphere:
It [the phrase that is the title of the post] reflects part of the reason I’m spending more time napping on my porch overlooking Fountain Street and less time engaged in some of the hand-to-hand verbal combat in the political blogs. There are some great masters of catchiness and snarkiness in the political blogosphere. Yet I also worry that many of the let their catchiness and snarkiness get in the way moving their causes forward...

Yet Aldon is also concerned with the First Amendment fate of Avery Doninger, a Burlington, CT high school student who was not allowed to run for senior class secretary because she called administrators "douchebags". Is it really criminal to call an administrator a "douchebag" on your blog (which, btw, even on LiveJournal, is public information)? So far, the judges think so. But Norm Pattis points out on his blog post that it wasn't necessarily the use of the word "douchebag" inasmuch as "she appears to have violated a school policy about civility and the proper means of working out disagreements with administrators. And in part because her off-campus speech had an impact on school activities."

So, Avery Doninger challenged the status quo in a rather inelegant manner, actually got a rise out of some fellow students (ah! the keyboard is mightier than the sword!")was deemed "incivil," and silenced.

I guess, then, that Florida law enforcement was justified when that douchebag of a student who dared challenge John Kerry was brutally tasered for his "incivility" towards a public figure....

Actually, I never thought being an ass in public was a crimial--or torturable--offense. But, I guess in a "civilized" world, Order is more important than challenging a public figure.

Which leads me back to some criticisms I've been dealt lately. When I posted a serious (post lost due to Blogger error)