Tuesday, January 31, 2006
A blog is:
NOT a "journal/diary": what diarist lets other people write in it, and what journal is entered in chronological order, but is displayed paradoxically and unexplainably, in Reverse chron order?
What print journal links directly to other journals?
What paper diary writing appartus requires fingers to simply touch the letter producing keys, and not have to guide them, as in penmanship?
What book or biography can be opened to any random page, and certainly be interesting, understandable, and context-free?
Monday, January 30, 2006
Do you care, Mr. Murdock?
From "Teen Menu" at the Blog Safety site:
The sad fact is that it is now very easy to find teenage victims in your community, thanks to an online social networking service called MySpace.com.
This advertising-supported site, which was acquired last year by Rupert Murdock's News Corporation, presents a veritable smorgasbord of teenagers, organized by community and high school.
If you know the name of your local school and the sex and age of teens you're seeking, you can find them on MySpace.
What's more, in most cases, you can find pictures, names and photos of their friends; details about where they were born; what they like; and where they hang out. In many cases, you can also find their full names and cell phone numbers.
As an experiment, I used the site's search function to look for 16- and 17-year-old "women"who attend the high school near where I live -- where my kids went to school.
Within seconds, I was presented with a list of 198 girls who were registered on the service. Including boys, there were a total of 577 listings for current students, which represents about a third of the school's student body.
The search function allows you to specify age, starting at 16.
MySpace's terms of service say that it's open to people 14 or older, but there is no age verification process to prevent younger kids from setting up an account by lying about their date of birth.
One of the girls, who is 16, has a sexually suggestive word as part of her user name.
Thanks to MySpace, I have a pretty complete picture of her life. I know the day she was born, the hospital she was born in, her full name, where she goes to school, what she likes to eat, what time she goes to bed at night and her favorite fast-food restaurant.
She gets along with her parents "sometimes". In the past month she says she has consumed alcohol, eaten sushi, been to a mall, and gone askinny dipping. She says she has shoplifted at least once, wants to be a lawyer and would like to visit Egypt.
Information like this, which used to take predators months to extract from a child can -- in the wrong hands -- be skillfully used to help win a child's confidence.
Thanks to several pictures on her site, I also know exactly what she looks like and have seen pictures of many of her friends and am able to access her friends' profiles as well. This girl lives within a few miles of my house. Some of the pictures were clearly taken at the local high school.
With information like this, it would be pretty easy for someone with bad intentions to locate this girl.
Then the question is what might happen. Hopefully, the young lady would have the sense to avoid the person, but armed with enough information, predators can be very good at persuading would-be victims to comply with their wishes.
Have a nice, Mr. Murdock.
Enjoy Hell when you get there.
Your negligence gleams like filth in the sky.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
D.L. Byron, a smart blogger, sort of scolded me about my last comment there. He said I was perhaps a bit "bombastic" in my scolding of publishers who don't fact check books of "memoirs", regarding Oprah and the "Million Pieces" book con job.
Here's the topic thread, three comments appended to the original post, "Why Oprah Won't Have to Holler at Scoble".
29 Jan 06 | steven streight who is vaspers the grate Enemy of MSM and Pseudo Bloggery wrote …
I also blame the freaking lazy, cheap-ass publishers for not fact checking. That is their job, like it or not. They used to hire college interns and such to do it. This is Psycho Capitalism, Super Mediocrity striking again.
I read some excerpts from that Million Pieces book. I’ve lived in the East Village, NYC, played in punk bands, been a hippie, been a bohemian, etc….and nobody in their right mind would believe this stupid, exaggerated, hyperbolic book.
“I wanted to smoke a mountain of crack, drink an ocean of whiskey, smoke 50 million cigarettes in one hour…” stuff like that.
“I awoke on the airplane in a pool of blood and vomit” etc.
Silly junk from a little twerpy fool. Look at him. He did all that stuff? No freaking way, man.
Rumor going thru the blogs is that the author tried to shop it to publishers as a novel first. I have to check this “fact” first, so please don’t quote me. ha ha ha.
30 Jan 06 | -b- wrote …
That’s a bit bombastic Steve. I mean, what facts are to be checked in a blog book? A company says yes or no that we blog and it was on this date we started and we sold 10M widgets because of it? Does anyone fact check when Scoble and Shel say that MS is the most naked corporation in the world? That’s an opinion not a fact.
30 Jan 06 | steven streight the mind design guy vaspers the grate wrote …
Many large corporations have a cynical attitude toward the lowly “consumer”. Many think we are easy to influence, and we will buy anything if it is hyped hard enough.
Until recently, they may have been correct. But now, with the Information Explosion and Blog Revolution, the tables are turned.
Why can’t I dance a Irish jig on the grave of corporate idiocy?
I’m a blogger. Bloggers are known to be sharp tongued. Corporations are known to be arrogant. Thus, it takes strong speech and forceful attitude to get through.
When people say bloggers are harsh, I laugh.
How harsh are corporations? Some top executives raid the pension fund, exploit Third World countries, hire illegal immigrants, operate sweat shops, offshore outsource sensitive data work, etc.
And we are to pussyfoot around them? Not me, baby.
You may think I really am rather bombastic, bellicose, or belligerent.
But check this out, a quote I posted yesterday at Naked Conversations:
"...the internet was built on and thrives on the strong voices of its participants. Online you need to have a strong character in order to stand out from the crowd...articulate, witty, ridiculous, and loud.
...Being blah guarantees that you'll never be heard.
...Better to be known for your strong beliefs, your strong personality.
Better to be hated by some than ignored by everyone."
--Nick Usborne, Net Words (McGraw-Hill, 2002), p. 40, 41
Just remember, if you yourself are on the side of Truth, Goodness, and the Universal Ethical Way...you have nothing to fear from me.
More on this debate at Blogcritics, over Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" and Oprah:
My comment posted at that BlogCritics article referenced above:
Sharp Tongued Bloggers Unite!
I am so pleased to see people actually praise Truth and ask, "Since when does America approve of lying your way through life?"
Since Ad Agencies, Politicians, and Corrupt Corporations made a science out of it, and were oh so charming as they screwed us.
How could even Oprah believe all that silly exaggeration and stereotyping?
Publishers may state "we took the memoirs on trust". Means: "We are too inept and cheap to hire good fact-checkers."
Be harsh and abrasive about it dear bros and sistahs. They are arrogant, these publishers and rich folk. Hit them and kick them into submission via blog comments and posts.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
Saturday, January 28, 2006
"I'm trusting in the goodness of the Universe," he would explain.
Others warned him about the dangers of automobile traffic, fire hydrants in the middle of the sidewalk, ice, debris in the path, yet he continued to keep his eyes closed.
For a long time, he was safe.
His friends and relatives tried to guide him and help him cross busy intersections. He grew more and more confident in his optical darkness. He began to proclaim that he was Specially Favored by universal laws, karma, good intentions, guardian angels, or whatever self-justifying delusion his imagination could supply at any given moment.
He mocked Open Eyers, as he called them.
In a recent New Age seminar he promoted heavily, called "Walking by Faith and Not Sight," he said:
"Open Eyers use vision as a crutch. They aren't spiritually advanced like me.
I am proving the Benevolence of Protective Spirit Guides. My good karma is my safety.
I move by Divine Revelation and Good Intentions.
Open eyes are easily deceived by optical illusions and mirages. We see only what we want to see.
Since I physically see nothing, I remain undeceived."
A week after that seminar, he was struck by a car and killed. His darkness and resistance to sight was what deceived him and lulled him into a warm and fuzzy feeling of invincibility.
MORAL: Why tempt fate and do what you have been warned is dangerous? Internet predators are invading in ever increasing numbers. MySpace is full of sexual deviants and adults pretending to be teenagers with similar musical tastes.
"You like Stereolab and chocolate Ovaltine. I do too. Let's hook up!"
Then your teenage daughter is raped and murdered and tossed into a ditch. By a 48 year old geezer who posed online as a teen hipster. Guess who's at fault? Mom, Dad, you are to blame.
Protect your children from baby snatchers, stalkers, and child molesters.
Don't post photos of babies, under 18 year old children, home addresses, or other private information online.
To thwart Identity Theft, don't shop online or conduct any financial or medical transactions via the internet.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
I just got done reading in Naked Conversations that there are almost NO Spanish language blogs, compared to USA, France, South Korea, etc.
Well, here's a blog in Brazil, that quotes part of one of my posts.
Technorati "Other Blogs That Link Here" search produced this post, which I quote here. There is a Google and a Firefox function that will translate this, but while I dig around for the Translator Tools, I thought I'd put this up and see if a reader can translate it for me.
A nossa esquizofrenia, além de ficar exposta publicamente, é alimentada pela contínua curiosidade e teimosia em querer domar esse mundo virtual que lhe explode nos olhos, lhe hipnotiza e lhe escraviza. Se você não sente isso é que não experimentou - não foi fundo o suficiente.
Olha só o que esse cara diz:
Your blog *will* produce results, if you keep at it.
Who cares? Just keep at it. Keep...
improving / learning / listening to readers / visiting high quality blogs / posting comments at other blogs
e ...: publishing frequent posts.
Mas se você quiser a tradução correta de tudo isso em uma só palavra: TEIMOSIA!
Leia mais aqui!
E por falar em revelação - sempre fui fiçurado em Corvette. Ok ok, os blogs também revelam você pro mundo. Mas como é que deu certo? Nem a bruxa do Lewis explica!
Anybody out there who can read Spanish? I know I have readers in Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina, according to SiteMeter.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Your blog *will* produce results, if you keep at it.
How long? Who cares? Just keep at it.
listening to readers
visiting high quality blogs
posting comments at other blogs
publishing frequent posts.
Be stubborn. Ferocious. Relentlessly plodding along, not caring one fig about who likes you or how many comments you get. Screw comments. Keep on writing excellant blog posts, polished and gleaming. You're burning new paths to other worlds, blogger.
I feel like a blogger who stops, gives up, abandons the blogosphere, deletes his blog, departs forever, for me, a blogger who goes AWOL, is a disappointment to me personally.
I wish them well, I know they felt compelled to throw in the towel, but it's Blogicide.
Yes, it's blog death, the blog died, and a little point of light in my own blogospheric heart was extinguished.
I can't go there anymore. The blogger quit. That blog is gone. They do disappear, you know. Some say they fade away in pixelated decay. Others claim a Blog UFO uploads them and removes them to a distant galactic network museum for aliens to laugh at and feel superior to human beings, at least the ones who blog, and give up.
Don't give up.
Also don't think you can just post brilliant essays, and people will respond and compliment you. Forget it. There are millions upon millions of blogs, like stars in the visible sky. One blog is statistically insignificant, but still meaningful to someone, some others, those who read it.
Keep at it, and I don't want to hear any crybaby whining about ROI or comment loads.
You learn how to solve blogging problems, like how frequent to post, how to combat flamers, how to prevent abusive remarks and comment spam, community-building, RSS, and how to interact with readers.
Hey, blogger. If nobody posts comments, check your blog stats. If you have 100 people visiting your blog daily, you've got 100 silent readers.
So blog for your 100 silent, non-interactive readers.
Blog for Your Lurkers.
At least they are reading you. Specifically ask questions of your audience, and maybe then someone will post a reply. Invite comment, criticism, differing opinions.
Never worry about comments, other bloggers blogrolling you, or any other extraneous, peripheral details.
Even if your blog is made for a client, and that client expects some sort of measurable, tangible results, I still say, forget results. Keep that blog going.
Think of the telephone. Businesses were slow to catch on that they should have a telephone.
"Why would I want to talk to a customer?" they asked at first. "If they're on the phone, they're not in the store, so they can't buy anything. A telephone might even drive customers away. I'd get tied up yakking to some lady, instead of attending to customers in the store. No thanks. A telephone in my store? No way. No ROI that I can see."
Be a stubborn blogger. So what if you're an early adaptor and no one understands you. Keep at it. Okay? Thanks.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Pre-blog diaries, like what Hugo Ball , founder of the Cabaret Voltaire, wrote, are instructive for bloggers who wish to learn how to write creatively, with a distinct personal flair.
When you read a famous writer's agile turn of phrase, a cleverly composed statement, or an allusion with strange descriptors, it can inspire you to dream up your own unique style. I actually notice a strong burst of poetic language flow from me right after I've spent some time reading a good book of philosophy, poetry, anthropology, psychology, or art criticism.
When you read diaries, journals, memoirs, autobiographies of famous people, don't you start to feel like you're reading a blog? I do. For example, I'm reading Hugo Ball's Dada Diaries. Certain phrases, paragraphs, entries sound much like what you read in blogs. His scorn for mediocrity, his love of progress, his belief in self-expression, so many traits and assertions seem so bloggy.
Let's imagine what it would be like if Hugo Ball were alive and had internet access. Here are some excerpts from his diary that sound like really good blog writing. See if you agree.
And next time you read a book, particularly an episodic first person text, ask: "Would this writing style work in a blog?"
Hugo Ball Blog:
From Flight Out of Time: A Dada Diary by Hugo Ball, edited by John Elderfield (University of California Press, 1996).
"The world and society in 1913 looked like this: life is completely confined and shackled. A kind of economic fatalism prevails; each individual, whether he resists or not, is assigned a specific role and with it his interests and his character.
The church is regarded as a 'redemption factory' of little importance, literature as a safety valve.
It makes no difference how this came about; it exists and no one can escape from it." (p.3)
"The machine gives a kind of sham life to dead matter. It moves matter. It is a spectre. It joins matter together, and in so doing reveals some kind of rationalism. Thus it is death working systematically, counterfeiting life.
It tells more flagrant lies than any newspaper that it prints. And what is more, in its continuous subconscious influence it destroys a human rhythm.
Anyone who lasts a lifetime near such a machine must be a hero, or must be crushed. We cannot expect any spontaneous feelings from such a creature. A walk through a prison cannot be so horrifying as a walk through the noisy workroom of a modern printing shop. The animal sounds, the stinking liquids. All the senses focused on what is bestial, monstrous, and yet unreal." (p.4)
"Only the thoroughly tested idea, exposed to temptation and opposition, only the idea that is lived and embodied, only such an idea really exists." (p.15)
"Do not attack abstractions and doctrines. Everyone thinks what he wants to about them, and many abstruse words are used. Attack prominent people and events. One single sentence is enough; it does not have to be the whole system." (p. 22)
"Something is rotten and senile in the world. The economic utopias are the same way. There is a need for a widespread conspiracy of eternal youth to defend everything noble." (p.22)
"Self-assertion suggests the art of self-metamorphosis. The isolated man tries to hold his own in the most unfavorable circumstances; he has to make himself unassailable." (p.96)
"Resolute self-portrayal in the sense of Augustine and Rousseau would be the solution. But a great deal of courage is necessary for that and also a relevance...if the importance of the author were to be dispensed with, then a confessional, self-exhausting attitude would be essential." (p. 87)
Hugo Ball, along with Tristan Tzara, Kandinsky, Picasso, and others, spearheaded an art revolution, or actually a series of revolutions: dada, cubism, constructivism, futurism, etc.
We bloggers can learn from, and be encouraged by, classic art and technology revolutionists of the past.
What smart books are you reading?
[signed] steven streight aka vaspers the grate
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Two of the most important issues for me as a blogging, right now, are (1) Spam/Abuse Comment Prevention...and (2) Post Archive Categories as Sidebar Text Links.
Bless both WordPress and Blogger (though they were a bit sluggish) for providing blog operators with a sure defense against comment spam.
Almost all blog software offers captchas (captcha = completely automated program telling computers and humans apart), also called Word Verification or Optical Character Recognition, which wards off most or all spambots (automatic programs that surf the web, looking for vulnerable sites to post spam on), but the visually impaired (blind) are also unable to pass this Turing test.
Would-be comment posters must type in a series of numbers or letters as displayed in a box with an obfuscating, camouflaging background. If you make a mistake, a new box with appear, and usually your comment is intact also.
Always copy your comment text BEFORE submitting for publication, PRIOR TO clicking "Say It" or "Post Comment" function. Why? If you wrote a lengthy, impassioned, and well composed response, it would be a shame to lose it all. And you will lose it forever, if something goes wrong in your posting of it. Or if it's moderated, and the blogger decides not to publish it.
I no have zero (0) comment spam appearing in my blogs.
Comment Moderation with Delayed Posting: readers activate form for typing in their remarks, but their comments are not automatically posted on your blog, under whatever post they wish to add their input to.
The comments are emailed to you, then you can Reject or Publish. With some blogging software, you can also ban their IP and do other system or network hardening to deflect their very entry in the first place.
You can see all comments on this post here: [URL]
To delete this comment, visit: [URL]
New comment on your post #5 "Welcome to WordPress dot com"
Author : ABIGALE (IP: 22.214.171.124)
E-mail : mailto: [email address]
URI : http://www.yahoo.com
Whois : 126.96.36.199
You can see all comments on this post here:
To delete this comment, visit: [URL]
What you see quoted above is an email message from WordPress about a comment attempting to be posted to my blog "electrica".
Next, the Blogger version of the same methodology.
News Electronics Lover [HTML deleted]
News Electronics Lover has left a new comment on your post "Best book on blogs now in bookstores":
I don\'t go to electronics online stores to get reviews on consumer report electronics i think they are not that fair, i visit blogs like yours to get customers reviews. I like it better. I think it is less deformated
Also i go to consumer report electronics ..good mine of fresh electronics products info.
Publish this comment.
Reject this comment.
Moderate comments for this blog.
Posted by News Electronics Lover to Vaspers the Grate at 1/23/2006 10:54:54 AM \n",0] ); //--> News Electronics Lover has left a new comment on your post "Best book on blogs now in bookstores":
I don't go to electronics online stores to get reviews on consumer report electronics i think they are not that fair, i visit blogs like yours to get customers reviews. I like it better. I think it is less deformated
Also i go to consumer electronics bargains [embedded URL deleted] ..good mine of fresh electronics products info.
Publish this comment.
Reject this comment.
Moderate comments for this blog.
Posted by News Electronics Lover to Vaspers the Grate at 1/23/2006 10:54:54 AM
Notice how the spam comment from News Electronics Lover is irrelevant, has no connection to, my post topic.
Notice how spam comments almost always have an embedded URL, a hot link, to entice readers to visit a dubious or dangerous web site.
Marching Orders: If your blog software has it, activate Word Verification, Email Comment Notification, and Comment Moderation with Delayed Posting.
Some readers will balk, and not like these "annoyances", but have they ever spent 4 hours manually hunting for, and deleting, spam comments from a blog?
[signed] steven streight aka vaspers the grate
How important is it to know if your blog readers (1) go with the flow or (2) search for info?
A "go with the flow" blog reader keeps pace with your postings. This reader views your blog as an ongoing series of episodes, never fully resolving, full of suspense and intrigue, the story of your pursuit of [insert: your specialty, hobby, profession, etc.].
A "search for info" blog reader delves into your archives. If you have poorly labeled categories, such as months, this type of reader will find your blog frustrating. Blog site search tools offer one form of date retrieval, but are limited and difficult for some users.
If you have lousy archive categories, like I do, you had better put some text in your sidebar that explains your site search tool, with suggested topic keywords a user might type into the text entry box.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
A ('nuther) list
|Over at Steven's Streight's (see below) Vaspers the Grate blog, he has this excellent headline: Feeding cat steak to mice* is what I'm doing here at Vaspers the Grate. Oh, my friends, I see victory, triumph, and a new blogosphere on the horizon.|
|He also points to the Srategic Board Aggregator, which lists the 100 Top IT Sources. #1 is Scoble. #2 is Dave Winer. #3 is Steve Rubel. Gapingvoid is #26. Niall Kennedy is #89. Kevin Burton is #100.|
|Steven Streight has ten suggestions for improving the blogosphere in 2006. I have one more: ads the reader actually wants to see. Who's gonna be in that business? Any takers?|
[VASPERS: Thanks Doc. Yo Roc.]
and Blog Psychosis
The phenomenon of Over-bloggerization, also known as Blog Psychosis, occurs when a blogger considers their blog to be more important than money, life, or music itself.
Experts had a solid grasp of the blogging-induced disease spectrum, but no reliable symptomology or progressive sequence of blogistic events that culminate in the dreaded dysfuntion in the core of the blogger's ego, self, and personality.
The blog has a mysterious power of seduction, in that it can replace your normal, unblog personality with grotesque and towering mutation that overshadows and causes to cower every adversary, bully, and thought cop.
The negative side of this blessing is that it may also outmanever and overcome your core sense of who and what you are. The insidious invasive aggression of blog-induced identity decay can be catastrophic in effect and hopelessly irreversible.
Over-bloggerization generally occurs in the sequence of events, and tends to be seen in bloggers with 6 months to 3 years continuous blogging/commenting experience.
(1) Blog Elation.
(2) Blog Confusion.
(3) Blog Comment Ecstasy.
(4) Blog Citation Euphoria.
(5) Blog Conference Inanity.
(6) Blog Clique & Cloister Syndrome.
(7) Blog Myopia & Narcissistic Cathexis.
(8) Blog Hyper-Mania/Melancholia.
(9) Blog Parenthetically Installed as Rehab Superego.
(10) Blog Over-valuation Morbidity.
(11) Blogopathic Reaction Formation.
(12) Blog Ambiguity Crisis.
(13) Blog Replication of Introjected Archaic Object.
[we have now passed the point of no return, no remedy]
(14) Blog Apotheosis Dissemblancing.
(15) Blog Psychosis--total permanent loss of original pre-blog personality and goals.
It is only when your blog becomes your surrogate, psychic shadow, extension, or facsimile, and this may take months, that you face any danger of the ruinous road to Over-bloggerization, Blog Psychosis, and the irrevocable vanishing of your former self.
[signed] steven streight aka vaspers the grate
Saturday, January 21, 2006
But instead: I am transported to
a strange Google Start page that link-lists all their services, including Google Answers, Blogger, and Gmail. I have not seen it, nor did I expect it. Is it time for this shanty town migrant to recede from the shores of computerville and go to bed and stare at the ceiling until time to get up again?
Did I experience a tech flash wrinkle in the space-time (spam-face) continuum?
The link does not work, you'll get an Error Message, URL not found. The anomoly has vanished, Elvis has left the building. But---
---I copy and pasted that URL from my browser address bar. It has to be correct.
What was that sound? Who's there? what are t
We must be experienced in several blog software tools (Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, Xanga, MySpace, Moveable Type, Radio, etc.) to know which might be best for a client.
We must have experience interacting with all types of blogs, personal, CEO, mommy, military, political, hobby, tech, etc.
We must post comments at all types of blogs, get into or start heated debates at not only blogs, but also at discussion lists, web forums, chat rooms, bulletin boards, and message parlors.
We must experiment with wikis, glogs (assistive psycho-geographic tech), podcasts, audioblogging, videoblogging, blog polling, mashups and social media networking communities. We must also be proficient email writers, email surveyers, and email marketers.
My contemplation on blogology led me to how blog-analytics and diagnostics are applied to various blog situations. I formulated different sets of expectations and directives for different types of blogs, then eventually realized: the types resolve themselves in distinct sub-cultures and web tribalisms, each with its own blog-thropology and blogistics.
There seemed to be two, three, no four, or more "blogospherias". I wanted to call them "blogospherias" to differentiate them from blogosphere, but that seemed to over-specify and needlessly complicate an emerging discovery.
They are more than sectors of one blogosphere, I decided. Each individual blogosphere is governed by a different set of rules, etiquette, and protocols. This seemed both obvious and yet also a ripe area for exploration.
A leap in conjecture: the Fragmented Disunified Multi-Blogosphere, a new model to work with in blogological theory, practice, and analysis.
I kept pondering the ambiguities and peculiarities of various styles of blogging.
The totality of blogs does not behave or exist as one unified, homogenous blogosphere at all, although in the early 1990s such an entity probably did exist. Then it was a tiny blogosphere of tech people, not teenage diarists, but link logs and computerese. No photos of babies and cats, but recommended sites for computer related items, events, info. These primitive early blogs were rather unified and homogenous.
It was the rise of Pop Blogging, especially Blogger, LiveJournal, Xanga, then eventually MySpace, that spawned a strange mix of hybrid bloggeries: from legit personal and professional blogs...to internal firewalled intranet-like corporate networking or project collab blogs...to pseudo, reblogger, link farm, and copy & paste faux blogs.
A MySpace blog of a high school student is set up to admit friends into their private online community, which is generally composed of only offline friends, people they know in real life, and family. Readers have to ask to be invited to join the blogger's community, or friends list, in order to post comments. Bloggers often read or write their blogs and IM simultaneously.
This is a very different blogosphere from the one that Naked Conversations, Blog, or Who Let the Blogs Out speak of, for the most part.
So, as I pondered the difference between a business PR blog and a teen network blog, I was startled at how profound a chasm existed between them, and how more chasms and more blog realms loomed ahead of my analytic vision.
Here is my first attempt at a systematic theoretical framework for understanding the complexities of the multi-blogosphere, the blogiverse (blog + universe) that we are residing within.
in One Blogiverse
(1.) Social Connection Youth IM-Blogosphere: Xanga, LiveJournal, MySpace, etc.
(2.) Mature Personal-Hobby-Family Blogosphere
(3.) Business-Marketing-PR-CEO-Corporate Blogosphere
(4.) Meta Blogosphere (Blog Consultants, Blogologists, Blog Metric Analysts, Blog Trackers, Blog Content Syndicaters/Aggregators, Blog Services, Blogging Tool Providers, Blog Hosts, Blog Directories, etc.)
(5.) Professional/Military/Educational Blogosphere
If I my theorizing has some merit, and there are a multiplicity of blogospheres within a blogiverse of all possible blogs, then each blogosphere has to be differentiated by distinct rules, user expectations, netiquette, protocol, tech configurations, meaning a different philosophy and style govern each of them.
So it would not be fair to compare the behavior and goals of high school Xanga blogs to those of meta-blogs, CEO blogs, mommy blogs, or Army blogs.
[signed] steven streight aka vaspers the grate
Friday, January 20, 2006
These are my slapdash suggestions for improving the Blogosphere 2006, which I hope will evolve into the multi-media, multi-phonic, multi-functional Blogosphere 4.0
I may publish sequels to this post ("Blogosphere 2006: Phase II", etc.) if my back quits hurting so I can type out all the millions of okay ideas exploding in my head.
(1) Blogger Dedication
I am assuming that blog pioneers, innovators, consultants, and authors truly wish to see the blogosphere refined, dignified, and blossoming into new and beneficial forms. Not "anything goes" mutation blogoids that violate user expectations and frustrate the typical reader, but real progress in blog functionality, efficiency, connectivity, syndicated delivery, and interactivity.
The lines are drawn in the sand.
Bloggers must individually decide where they stand on such matters as reblogging vs. aggregating, ghost blogging, link farms, blog advertising, RSS, blog psychosis, blog addiction, blog ethics, blog core values, blog voice, personal details in blogs, identity theft, blog licensing and blogospheric regulation, porn blogging, CEO blogs, child and teen blogs, online predators, anti-blog bloggers, MSM information hegemony, blog crediblity, dark siding, comment spam, pseudo blogs, and sleazy sponsored link blogs.
Get good at blogo-combat, or blogo-diplomacy. Blogopathic hostility will increase, and blog haters will start blogs just to ridicule bloggers and debase blog values.
(2) Importance of Blogroll Quality
Every blogroll is a new hub in the blogosphere within the web of the internet. Your blogroll acts as a transitory portal for your blog readers, a gateway to recommended blogs and web sites you feel might benefit them in some way.
Blogrolls are an indication of your blog's credibility. One way to assess, evaluate, or judge a blog that is unfamiliar to you is to check the blogroll, who is in it, and who is excluded.
If a blogologist or blog consultant's blogroll includes Doc Searls, Scripting News, Evhead, Sifry Alerts, Tom Peters, Tim Berners-Lee, Seth Godin, Naked Conversations (aka: The Red Couch), Gaping Void, Ensight, Kottke, Joi Ito, Shel Israel, Scobleizer, The Blog Herald, WebProNews, CNET, Slashdot, Shel Holz, BlogWrite for CEOs, The Big Blog Company, Peter Merholz, Crossroads Dispatches, NevOn, Tinbasher, Decent Marketing, Blogspotting, Intuitive Life Business Blog, Contentious, Blog Business Summit, Lipsticking, and other high quality blogs that focus on, or regularly discuss meta-blogging, you know the blogger at least is smart enough to know, and possibly read, some of the best blogs in the field.
But still, this could be a copy and paste type job, and mean only that the blogger knows how to *look like* he has some credibility, as though these blogs somehow "endorse" him, or make him part of their circle.
It's good to clean up your blogroll every six months or so. Delete any blogs that you never visit, and no longer are enthusiastic about directing your readers toward.
Keep a handy list of titles, blogger names, and URLs of new blogs you want to add to your blogroll. Don't worry if these blogs reciprocate by blogrolling you, because nearly none of them will.
(3) Specificity and Confirmity
Specificity (precision in all details) and Confirmity (ability to confirm, substantiate, verify, certify all information) will be two keynotes in the symphony of social media hybrids and filtered information zones.
Blogs will need to tighten their focus, while allowing occasional tangents and sidepaths, and amplify their serviceability to readers, giving them more targeted help, advice, or links.
Blog Directories, and other blog category listings, must start including "Blogology", "Web Usability", "Blog Consulting", "Interface Design", "Corporate IT", "Personal Blogging", "Meta-blog", "Social Media", "Online Community", "Web/Blog Portal", "Blogging Tools", "Blog Networking", "Information Architecture", "Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)", "Web Writing Services", "Computer Music", "Digital Art", "Web Services", and other current internet-based specialties in their lists of Categories of blogs.
These directory categories are poorly written, and guess what? The professionals with the specialized skill sets mentioned above will not be "claiming" their blog for your directory listing, because a Blogologist doesn't want to categorize himself under the label "Web Design", "Internet", "Marketing", or "Communications".
A blogologist, a blog author, a blog reader (commenter or lurker), all blog-related agents and operatives are accustomed to typos and rash declarations now and then, but not fuzzy thinking, confused formulations, imprecise descriptions, incomplete instructions, or vague or antiquated categories.
(4) Blog Post Titles, Links, and Content
Blog posts should have better, more informative titles.
Blog posts should have more substantiating hypertext links embedded within post text, deep linking to source post.
Blog posts should be written with "How will this information, presented in this style, and at this length, help my readers?" as the top of mind goal.
(5) Sidebar Enhancements
What are you doing with your sidebar these days?
YOur sidebar is where you can identify yourself, display your photo, orient readers to your topic or theme, and display information that you want to be permanent, always visible to all visitors.
Badges: If you have graphic tools, create various sidebar badges, promoting your blog, your company, your sports team, your political party, whatever you are passionate about. Or visit other blogs and see what badges they have. Political blogs often have cool badges, for example, see my sidebar with Iran Democracy, Iraq Democracy, Friend of Israel, Firefox, Digg, etc. badges.
Blog sidebars should contain more functions and activities for readers. Consider polls, reader photo galleries, podcast links, music mp3 links, video, audio (speech, excerpts from lectures), digital art, links to external services and surveys, update text.
You should also include "Sidebar Updates", i.e., sidebar paragraphs, ideally with a graphic icon or photo, containing messages of timely significance, from you to your blog readers, with large headlines stating the benefit or category of information. Special communications you want all readers to see, thus you don't put in only in a post that will start sliding down the scroll sequence as new posts are added on top of it. Time-sensitive announcements, deadlines.
I continue to maintain, albeit cryptically, that the sidebar movie is a viable device, a film you scroll.
Is your sidebar full of dead space, padding, white noise?
Put that sidebar to work for you and your causes. Use it to promote and explain yourself, your organization, your beliefs, your blog allies, links to your most controversial posts, links to your most helpful posts, links to posts to educate newbies and computer nincompoops, and functions your readers need or might enjoy.
I link, for example, to free legal music mp3 download sites, in my sidebar. You will think of how you can apply this suggestion to your industry, audience, or personal goals.
What do your kind of people or customers want to know all the time, but it's not easy to find it? For farmers, it might be weather reports or commodity prices. Whatever it is, put it, or a link to it, in your sidebar.
(6) Archive Categories
Blogs, including my own, must solve the problem of archive navigation and information search. This is the biggest usability problem with blogs that I see in my practice and analysis of other sites. I very much admire blogs that have good archive categories, category titles that make sense to the user, titles that clearly identify user concerns, interests, needs.
Good, meaningful, clearly labeled archive categories enable you and your readers to quickly access posts on different topics of interest.
Blog site search is another functionality that offers data mining, post explorations, but few blog readers are skilled in site searching, what keywords to use, nor can they guess what titles or terms your post might have used for that topic.
(7) Comment Spam Preventives
I have now completely defeated comment spammers.
Thanks to Blogger offering: (1) email notification of comments submitted, (2) comment moderation with delayed posting, and (3) word verification captchas.
Find out what your blog software provides, then implement, activate, use it.
Letting comment spam sit in your blog is disgusting, irresponsible, and potentially dangerous and harmful to your audience. Spam comments often link to con artist, spyware-attaching, Trojan, adware-attaching, virus infecting, or otherwise malicious sites. Stop it and get rid of it.
(8) Comment Philosophy
Comments should be understood as opportunities to interact with readers, learn from readers, and help readers, NOT as proof of your blog's popularity, success, or effectiveness.
Comments should be enabled, else your blog is NOT a blog.
A blog that doesn't allow readers to post comments?
Aside from link logs that simply provide recommended sites, like Robot Wisdom, a blog without commentability is:
a blogoid object, a pseudo blog, a unilateral, one-way message delivery platform, a preaching pulpit, a propaganda machine readers must submit to, a soapbox that says "shut up and passively absorb, without questioning, this communication from me to you."
Encourage, invite, command, shame, antagonize, shock, astonish your readers into responding to your posts with a comment.
If you don't get any comments, it's your fault, not the audience or "blogging". You figure out how to be more interesting, more controversial, more helpful, more funny, more reader-conversation focused, more intelligent, more casual...whatever it seems you need to do. What do your readers request you do?
Have someone look at your blog, even someone who knows nothing about computers, blogs, or the internet. Ask them, "What's wrong?"
They may say, "It's ugly. I don't like the colors, and the design is too cluttered, too busy, too many distractions. It drives me crazy. I want to go do something, anything, else." So now you've got some good marketing intelligence, some free diagnostics, to guide your blog make-over.
Want more comments? Improve your blog and your posts. Visit other blogs and post comments, relevant, enriching comments that provide free content to the blogs. Do bloggers realize this? Comments, when good and intelligent, are free content that increase the value and popularity of your blog. Thus, be nice to your readers, both commenters and lurkers.
Lurkers are those who read but do not comment. Lurkers are good. They may be passing on your URL and your genius ideas to their friends, family, co-workers, and potential clients for you.
Lurkers may be doing battle for your ideas, but not in the blogosphere, or at least not in comments on your blog. Don't underestimate the power of lurkers. One may suddenly jump out of the shadows and post an astonishing comment, then you never hear from them again.
Comment should be enabled and enthusiastically accumulated, but do you really want 600 per post like Pete Townsend?
Respond swiftly, politely, and completely to every comment, as much as possible. Some comments need no reply. Most do. Don't leave your commenters hanging, wondering if you even care or pay any attention to other people's opinions and insights.
[signed] steven edward streight aka vaspers the grate
Sunday, January 15, 2006
The best book on blogs is now in bookstores:
Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers
by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble (forward by Tom Peters).
John Wiley & Sons, Inc. publishers
I went to Barnes &amp; Noble yesterday and bought it.
The sales clerk said it just arrived, and she had to go into "the back" to get a fresh brand-spanking new copy of this treasure.
I feel like I should not post for a while, wait until I read the entire book at one or several sittings, and then post something with the white hot lamp of your revelation burning and brightening my vivid braincells and stem.
I just flipped to a random page, page 79, last bulleted item: "Blogging saves money, but costs time."
See? Pithy. Profound. Clever. Hip. Too much to believe. The highest praise I can give a business book: it reads like a title in the Harvard Business School Press catalog. Astonishing, as Seth Godin might say.
This IS the Bloggers Bible.
A first in the history of the beloved blogosphere.
EDIT UPDATE: Oh, yeah. I forgot to mention, I'm mentioned twice in the book, see page 137 and 234.
EDIT UPDATE 2: It seems that Vaspers the Grate is the first known person to purchase Naked Conversations in a retail bookstore. I have entered a footnote in the history of the blogosphere.
"Stephen Streight buys Naked Conversations in Peoria"
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Friday, January 13, 2006
How to evaluate your blog is a big mystery.
Try doing an internet search on "blog evaluation", "judging a blog", and similar phrases. If your experience is like mine, you'll get just about nothing worthwhile from the search results.
Even such phrases as "effective blogging" provide little in my searches. I just got back from a visit to Debbie Weil's Blog Write for CEOs article on effective blogging. She focused on 7 aspects of the writing of a blog, starting with "write about something you're passionate about". Good article for beginners and clueless business protons. She explains things in a way that even managers can understand.
But let's roll up our sleeves now, and really get to work on this.
What I will say here will strike many as bizarre, and definitely unconventional. I can't help it. This is how I think, and I think my thinking can benefit everyone, from teenagers with personal blogs to CEOs with professional blogs.
The only true measurements of a blog's value to a specific reader, audience, customer, client, colleague, family, friend, or market will revolve around knowing what they need and providing it.
Do you know what your blog readers want?
Are you providing it?
Then you've got a good blog, an effective blog.
Now, I must qualify, and say as long as that blog is also passionate, well-written, easy to read, full of relevant content, authentically the real you (and not a ghost-writer), honest, candid, enabling readers to post comments, and all the other Core Values and Deeper Principles of New Super Blogging.
"What the hell is he talking about?" some may think. "I'm not investing any time or money in a blog for my organization -- if the only budgetary justification for it is a vague, subjective feeling that I'm probably meeting people's needs."
Why is my simple statement so controversial, contrarian, verging on anarchy? Because this is the one thing businesses need to pay more attention to. And because many blog consultants think they can justify their services by pointing to other benchmarks for blog success.
What criteria are more popular than my humble, simple little: "meet their needs"?
False Evaluation of a Blog
An untrue, or unrealistic, evaluation of a blog occurs when it is judged according to:
1. Increased traffic to commercial site
2. Increased sales at commercial site, attributable to the blog
3. Large number of comments on blog posts
4. Large number of search engine references to the blog
5. Large number of links to the blog
6. Large number of textual citations of the blog
7. Large number of visitors to the blog
These seven (7) criteria are not relevant to the actual, intrinsic, inherent worth of a blog. Now, I must state that these may be worthy goals for a blog, but they are not useful for evaluating a blog.
My back is killing me, so I can't go into the depth I want here, nor will I stupidly hire a "ghost blogger", nor will I dictate my text to my wife, because it's Friday, and she works at a computer all day.
I'll post more on this later. I'll go into details about why each false criterion is invalid.
Just take this thought with you for now: Your blog, personal or business or military, is worth the time and trouble if you are providing benefit to potential or actual readers.
"Now he's saying you can benefit merely potential readers", someone might proclaim ironically. "What madness is this?"
You'll see...later. Stay tuned. I'm going to develop this with some complexity and a higher degree of completeness than you'll find elsewhere, I imagine.
[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka (also known as) Vaspers the Grate
Thursday, January 12, 2006
The MSM broadcast "Dateline" has now been forced to cover breaking stories in the blogosphere.
Or what they consider "breaking stories" in the blogosphere.
This is high humor, watching the MSM try to catch up to the blogosphere.
They are so lost in sheer nonsense, they think the biggest stories include Bill O'Reilly (sexual harrassment oaf) vs. David Letterman (called Bill Clinton "tubby", like the jerkoff Letterman is, the rich asshole) aguing about "The War Against Christmas".
My opinion on the removal of the 10 Commandments, the stripping of Christmas of all Christian meaning:
God hates [pseudo] Christians. He is angry that they worship CEO type pastors. He is angry that they act like gay marriage and abortion are the worst things humans do. God hates the [American] churches, which are nothing more that insipid country clubs and gossip fests.
On Christ-mass day, the churches were closed, but the stores were open...in many cases. A great commentary on the lack of spirituality in the stinking cesspool of America.
That's why God is allowing, nay, enabling and helping the ACLU and other "liberal" diversity enforcement groups to get rid of any mention of God, Bible, or Jesus in the USA.
Nobody can shove God around. If references to God are disappearing, it's not due to liberal atheists winning the day. It's because God Himself is vacating the premises.
It's like God is done with the decadent and sleazy materialistic USA, and has moved on to more fertile fields, like China, Sub-sahara Africa, and Malaysia.
Just my opinion.
Now that I got that off my chest finally, and I rarely discuss religion or politics here, let's look at what the MSM program "Dateline" is doing re: blogs.
January 8, 2006 | 7:40 p.m. ET
Blogging on Dateline (Susan Leibowitz, Dateline producer; and Jesamyn Go, Dateline web producer)
On Sunday’s Dateline, Josh Mankiewicz reported about the “blog world.”
For the uninitiated, a “blog” is basically a “Web log,” a personal website where a person’s private thoughts are recorded, like an online diary. Other people can respond to these thoughts online, and blogs and bloggers communicate with each other. Like anything published, some blogs are more popular than others. Some are read by opinion makers, while others communicate mostly with one’s family members and friends. Click here for a dictionary definition.
If you didn’t know what the word meant, then we daresay you’re a bit behind. “Blog” was 2004’s “Word of the Year” according to Merriam-Webster.
So for this segment, we read through some of the postings online and enlisted the help of two companies that monitor Internet buzz (Technorati and Blogpulse) to find the most blogged-about topics on the ‘Net this week.
Here’s what was featured on Dateline:
- Jack Abramoff, the Washington lobbyist who may name names. Click here to read more.
- Patrick Cranshaw’s death. He played the character “Blue” in the movie “Old School.” Click here to learn more.
- David Letterman’s interview with Bill O’Reilly. Click here.
Tell Dateline and Josh what you thought of the “Mank Blog” segment by writing in the space below:
"What did you think of the Mank blog? Tell us what you think... and what you're reading online. Your e-mails may be published."
And to read up on blogs, and what’s hot online (it’s changing all the time), here are links from Technorati, BlogPulse, and MSNBC.com.
Like I always say: the MSM has no clue what a blog or web site is.
They simply can't understand online anything.
Look at all the amateur "click here" wording.
Friends, this is Web Design 101, one of the most basic mistakes. Never NEVER use "click here" as a hypertext link. Links are usually in blue type and underlined. This text decoration makes them stand out. Thus, readers notice them, and seek to gain information from what is in bold, underlined, different color, etc.
"Click here" contains no information, it is just a command.
Rather than "click here for more information", the wording should be, for example, "learn more about ghost blogs", with "ghost blogs" the hyper text that is a link to another online location.
Notice also how the "tell...by writing in the space below" is a lie.
There is a space below, but you cannot put your cursor there and type in a comment. And when I voted the lowest possible rating for this dumb article, then the comments appeared.
Very very strange...and violations of user expectations abound.
That's right MSM, keep up the lousy unprofessional work, as usual.
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Our pseudo blog today is the infamous Ghost Blog.
Ghost = someone one else, invisible, often anonymous, writes in the name of another person, is thus the "ghost writer" of a "ghost written" book, newspaper column, press release, memoir, or blog.
To mean old Vaspers, having someone write your blog is like hiring someone to write your personal memoirs, intimate correspondence (paper letters), or autobiography.
What triggered my thought patterns on this topic was...
"So What's Wrong With Ghostwriting An Executive Blog?"
BTW, NevOn is an extreme professionalism blog, a New Super Blogger blog, with high quality content, good writing, very well designed, and a good role model for all business bloggers.
I've been thinking about an item in a recent survey that says only 20 percent of senior business executives write their own blogs.
The survey was conducted in October by PR veteran David Davis who published the results last week. Shel and I talked about it last Thursday in show #100 of our biweekly podcast.
While I take this survey overall with a little pinch of salt as apart from geographical facts it doesn't provide any detailed information breaking down the survey group, nor say how many actually sent back responses, the item in question about executive blogging is quite interesting as I think it shows the tip of an iceberg as to what is already happening in some organizations.
Let's look at the specific survey questions re executive blogging and the posted results:
1. Do you write your own blogs without advice?
- Yes 17%
- No 83%
2. Why don't you write your own blogs?
- Too time consuming 48%
- Difficulty in expressing themselves in writing 39%
3. How would you describe a 'ghost written' company blog?
- 'A sham' 8%
- 'Totally misleading' 5%
- 'Marginally misleading' 43%
- 'Acceptable' 44%
The answers to questions 1 and 2 don't surprise me a bit. This would be broadly in line with what you'd expect in many organizations where senior executives don't produce their own communication material. That's one of the reasons why those organizations have communicators!
Communicators devise, plan and write the content and messages that CEOs and others will use and deliver. Press releases, speeches, presentations, etc. Why should an executive blog be different?
Before you say "Yes, but..." in relation to those phrases we hear all the time about blogs (authentic voice, personality of the author, etc), let's look at question 3 - the interesting one.
The answers are quite telling and, in the absence of any other detail, must be based on one crucial assumption - that there is full and clear disclosure somewhere as to who the author is.
I cannot really imagine that the 44 percent of those senior executives who say it's acceptable to do this would have said that otherwise.
On the other hand, this view is countered by 43 percent saying it's marginally misleading (although I'm not sure what the word 'marginally' means - it's either misleading or it's not).
Let's be clear on what we mean by 'ghostwritten.' Consider this definition from Wikipedia:
A ghostwriter is a writer who writes under someone else's name, with their consent. Ghostwriters are often employed by celebrities to write autobiographies in situations in which the celebrities themselves may not be talented writers, or are too busy doing other work.
Other writers are also employed, with proper billing, by authors whose names alone will sell a book, such as Tom Clancy, many of whose recent works bear the names of two persons on their covers -- Clancy's name in larger print and the other author's name in smaller print. Sometimes a professional writer will receive partial credit, signified by "with" or "as told to". Credit may also appear as a "thanks" in a foreword or introduction. Strictly speaking, if the less famous writer's role and name are clearly acknowledged in the work as published, this is not ghostwriting but collaboration.
Just because a book is ghostwritten does not necessarily mean that the credited author did not make a significant contribution to the work; a ghostwriter is often employed to polish and edit existing material, or to work directly with the credited author to shape the book from start to finish.
You can simply substitute 'blog' for 'book.'
So with clear disclosure, I don't see any problem at all with an organization having someone write a senior executive's blog. I'm willing to hear any persuasive argument to the contrary, though.
Today, via Josh Hallett, I read Steve Warren's article in which he talks about hiring bloggers to write the content for corporate blogs.
A trend, Steve says. I agree. I think the picture he paints is something we will see much more of.
It seems I must endlessly, relentlessly stress and defend the 9 Core Values of Blogging.
Ghost blogs are wrong -- because they're a lie. To mean old Vaspers, they stink of False Advertising, and even perhaps bordering on Consumer Fraud.
Passion in a ghost blog is paid passion, thus fake.
There is no Transparency, Authenticity, Integrity, or Credibility in a ghost blog.
There is no possibility of personal contact, mediated by the web and browsers, with an individual. When I don't hire a team to write emails and blog comments for me, so why should a blogger hire someone to write his blog for him?
A blog that is ghost written is a Pseudo Blog. Period.
Basically, it's a false pretense.
Even when the blogger, say a CEO for example, admits, in the blog About page, or in the sidebar, that he "has help" writing the blog. Or that a professional blogger polishes up his posts. I may be alone in this, but I think such activities suck. Suck big gigabyte time.
Would you write a paper and pen journal, a diary in a spiral notebook, with the help of a team, a PR pro, or an ad writer?
What would people think?
Unless you are legally illiterate, and have to sign with an "X", you sir or madam, Write Your Own Blog, for cryin' out loud.
Ghost blogging is like paying some dude to have sex with your wife, so she is satisfied.
It may be done, but I don't advise it. And it makes your marriage a sham, to some degree, to a very intimate and important degree.
Don't pay a ghost to write your blog.
Be your own ghost.
Improve your writing skills, Mr./Ms. CEO. Have your best ad/PR writer teach you a few literary tricks.
Read a lot of good blogs for a few weeks. Pay attention to how short the paragraphs are. Observe how quickly, politely, and aggressively the bloggers respond to comments, good and bad. Learn. Then do. Just like everything else in life.
Any CEO who has a ghost written blog, that CEO is a jerk and a loser.
In the rough and tumble world of the blogosphere, full of sharp-tongued caustics, of whom I Vaspers the Grate am foremost, we will slaughter and annihilate any Ghost Blogs we stumble upon. We blog cops can smell 'em. We'll know, then we'll blab it all over the blogosphere.
I am VtG, the Chief Confrontation Officer of the blogosphere. I am always in the attack mode. I never rest, I'm relentless and reckless and raw as hell, hoping for a heavenly realm, the Blogosphere 4.0
Here's what I wrote as a comment in Neville Hobsons' NevOn blog:
Yes, the broad category of Pseudo Bloggery, as I define it, does include both Fictional Character and Ghost Blogs.
I have focused my expertise and observation on usability, credibility, and practical value characteristics of business blogs and corporate web sites.
A blog is a neutral void, a blank slate, a software application. So in one sense, you can do whatever the flip you want, immoral, ineffective, con artist, anti-blog, whatever. But in a values sense, you are limited in what you ought to do with a blog.
For example, a blog generally must have comments enabled, or it's not a true blog. It's a legit link log, like Robot Wisdom, or it's a unilateral old media preaching platform, a "shut up and passively absorb my propaganda" type device.
The basics of an ideal blog are the 9 core values I've assembled: authenticity, passion, transparency, credibility, individualism, creativity, originality, relevance, and integrity.
Now, I sympathize with any CEO who has no time or no writing skill for blogging. Blogs, and all web entities, require a very specialized writing and text format style, almost the opposite of print media. Short paragraphs, bulleted or numbered lists, boldface, heads and subheads, as necessary, per the individual stylistics of the blog author.
I know some CEOs need help with blogging. As I ponder this problem, my theory is that you can teach a CEO how to create, write, and maintain a blog. You can even write a few sample blog posts, until the CEO approves of the content and style. Then once you have an ideal post model, it's the CEOs job to master it and use it.
CEOs and other highly educated and highly motivated women and men are not accustomed to being told they need to learn how to write better.
Typical CEO will chuckle and say, "I'll just give it to my creative department, they've got some beatnik Shakespeares in there, they can do it for me, and I'll simply sign off on it." WRONG.
We, as consumers, do not wish to interact via comments and email, with a half-CEO/half-copywriter.
I used to write copy for CEOs. PR, ads, newsletters, sales material, etc. Often I ghost wrote press releases or other things for CEOs. But first they told me what they wanted to say. I just polished it.
I can't recall ever "dreaming up" something for a CEO to say, what he "should" say. This is what's sick and inauthentic, non-credible and anti-consumer.
That if enough blogs go Ghost, the blogosphere will be populated by spooks, insubstants, spectres, shadows only.
People will start saying:
"Why check the blogosphere? It's just ad writers and committees pretending to represent the head hauncho. And those teams will say anything to please the boss and hookwink the public."
When I go to Mark Cuban's blog, or Richard Edelman, or Bob Lutz, or Vaspers the Grate aka Steven Streight, I expect to deal with the guy or gal him or herself. Not a ghost flunkie. Not a team. Not an advertising agency posing as the Voice of the Highest Up.
One reason I always say
[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
is because I am flipping off the team, committee, ghost, and other pseudo blogs, signing my name, this is me, I am real, I bleed, I make mistakes and usually admit them, I am a jerk and a rotten CEO role model, I own my own business, I have a staff, I treat them like garbage when I'm in a foul mood, which they claim is perpertual. I laugh ha ha ha at myself constantly.
Blogs have made such a huge impact, that, even if a business has no blog, they may have blog monitors.
How stupid is it, to monitor a communication channel, but not have one's own channel in the mix?
Businesses need to get up off their butts, learn about blogs, and get their blogs started, so they can tell their story, answer questions from consumers, and establish an ongoing conversation platform for market research that is real-time. This is what a blog offers any organization smart enough to use one.
Blog Monitor: a service that keeps track of what bloggers are saying about an organization, product, political candidate, or other item of concern. Other online venues may also be monitored: web site forums, internet chat rooms, email discussion lists, podcasts, and bulletin boards.
Intelliseek is one service that is helping businesses monitor, keep track of, watch, follow what is being blogged.
"Why Companies Monitor Blogs"
by Daniel Terdiman
CNET News dot com
Jan. 3, 2006
The premise behind services like these, as well as companies' own internal Internet-monitoring programs, is that online discussions--be it in forums, on blogs or elsewhere--are a modern replacement for customer satisfaction surveys or focus group reports, which can take months to compile and analyze.
"When you're listening to the Internet, the discussion is taking place in real time," said Intelliseek spokeswoman Sue MacDonald. "We're able very quickly, sometimes in a matter of days, to pick up on what consumers are saying. If there's certain issues, like safety recalls or any mention of a boycott, we can set up an alert, so that we can alert a company or a brand so they can be on their guard and be ready to react, if that's what it takes."
The Intelliseeks and BuzzMetrics of the world are finding fertile--and lucrative--ground to till with the monitoring and analytic tools and products they offer their clients.
MacDonald said that Intelliseek's clients sign up for contracts that average $75,000 a year and can range from $30,000 to $500,000. Similarly, Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing at BuzzMetrics, said the firm's clients pay anywhere from $30,000 to more than a million dollars for its services.
"What we're saying to (our clients) is that it's pretty important that you listen," MacDonald said. "Your customers are listening. Your customers are using the Internet to search. It's keyword-dense. It's contextual. When you type in a product name into Google, you may run into the company's Web site, but you may also run into 10 people who have had an experience with it."
Ear to the ground
It's not clear how many companies are monitoring the Internet for brand mentions. Nor is it clear how many of those businesses hire outside help to do the research, or invest in both in-house and outside services.
One example of the latter is Hewlett-Packard, which is a BuzzMetrics client and also has an internal program.
"We pay attention to the blogosphere," said Scott Anderson, HP's director of enterprise brand communications, in a talk at the Syndicate conference in San Francisco in December. "Our audience is online. They're having discussions about us and about our competitors, and they're talking about the marketplace. It may be good, and it may be bad, but it's important for us to pay attention to what's being said out there."
Effectively, Anderson said, HP considers bloggers--especially chief-level executives, journalists and "influencers in our market"--to be valuable filters for what people think about its products and services.
"The blogosphere is a great place for customer intelligence," he said. "Things are happening very fast. Bloggers are considered to be people with real strong opinions. So it's a place where people are being really honest about what they think."
Naturally, there are countless small companies that want to keep up with what is being said about them online, but can't afford an Intelliseek or BuzzMetrics.
For them, said Steve Rubel, vice president of the Micro Persuasion practice at CooperKatz, which consults with companies about monitoring the Internet, there are a number of free and low-cost tools that companies can use to gain insight into how their brand is being talked about online.
Among them are Technorati, Google Blog Search, Hubsub and Icerocket, Rubel said.
"Those are very good if you have a manageable volume," he said. "If you have anywhere from single digits to 50 to 100 posts per day (about your company), you can probably manage that. With a huge brand, you need some tools to help you manage that. Otherwise, it just becomes too time-consuming."
Rubel pointed to public relations nightmares like that precipitated by Buzz Machine blogger Jeff Jarvis' much-publicized rants about his bad experiences with Dell and its customer service operation.
"When consumers have their own pen, they may not call in anymore," said Rubel. "They may choose to blog about it, because they think they'll get quicker service. Everyone has seen through different examples that they have to grapple with this."
calls a "lockbox" blog. He described it as "a blog you keep behind glass. In case of fire, break glass and blog."
The idea, he said, is that companies need to be able to quickly respond to crises and to do so in a medium that bloggers respect.
Ultimately, the point of tracking what online consumers are saying about brands is to be able to react quickly if something bad happens or learn from the good things people say. Either way, though, companies are learning they have to pay attention.
"The whole point," MacDonald said, "is if a company's not listening, they're not going to pick it up."[END QUOTE]
I think this is very funny.
My favorite parts are "bloggers are considered to be people with real strong opinions" and "companies are learning they have to pay attention".
Or we'll crush them.
[signed] Steven Edward Streight aka Vaspers the Grate
Monday, January 09, 2006
You as a blogger publish content to the web.
You as a blogger are:
* critical reviewer
* blogosphere interactor (meaning: you have to spend time with your colleagues, other bloggers, posting comments on their blog to say "hello", and to contribute to conversations beyond what's happening at your own blog).
* blog consultant (every time you explain what a blog is to clueless friends and business people, you act as a blog consultant)
Now, you do all these things, and more, to dream up, create, assemble content for the web via your spot on it, your blog.
And you also do some of these things to protect, defend, and publicize your content, your blog or web site.
Who is your biggest competitor in content?
Jakob Nielsen, leading usability specialist and a very large influence on my thought, says Search Engines are your main content competitor.
His point, I think, is this: you want your readers, visitors, customers to *not* linger for a long time at your site or blog, but to *return frequently*.
Blogs especially are all about fast everything. Fast thinking. Fast typing. Fast reaction to reader comments. Fast surfing of other blogs and fast posting of relevant, enriching comments at other blogs.
Design your blog for fast information access, fast functionality, or fast entertainment offerings.
Nielsen says "stickiness", getting users to spend more time during each visit, is outdated thinking.
He says the new, emerging trend is what I call "returnity": the qualities residing in your blog that entices readers to keep coming back.
Practical value, with accurate or intelligent substance, good writing, and unexpected surprises: how to keep 'em coming back again and again. Plus, kind and considerate interaction with readers via email and comments.
From his latest Alertbox, (which you really must get smart and subscribe to today):
"Search Engines as Leeches on the Web"
...[due to the content competition with search engine portals] you must foster customer loyalty so that users go straight to your site instead of clicking through from search ads [in the search engine results lists].
I predict that liberation from search engines will be one of the biggest strategic issues for websites in the coming years.
The question is:
How can websites devote more of their budgets to keeping customers, rather than simply advertising for new visitors?
Here are some ideas, ranging from the proven (newsletters) to the speculative (mobile services):
* Email newsletters. Getting people to sign up for regular newsletters remains the ultimate way to maintain a relationship. As usability studies show, a newsletter has much more of an emotional impact on people than a brief visit to a website.
* Request marketing. Have users tell you want they want, and then alert them when you have it.
* Discussion groups and other community features. Find ways to recognize particularly active members and thus further connect them to your site. Such recognition might be as simple as placing gold stars on their profiles or might include more substantial loyal-user benefits.
* Affiliate programs. These are alliances with other sites that promote your services to their users in return for a referral fee if their users do business with you. The program works best if the referring site can honestly recommend the destination site to its own target audience. So, even though you have to pay them a cut, the cost isn't boundless the way it is on search engines because you're not competing with all other sites in the world for the right to be listed. If you're the best match for the referring site's audience, they'll want you -- rather than simply whoever offers the highest fee -- because your conversion rate will be better. (In an earlier column, I offer an example in which sales differed drastically depending on which affiliate partner a site chose to link to.)
* Newsfeeds. RSS might work, but I don't know yet as we're not starting our user research into RSS until next week. (We'll present findings about RSS usability at our upcoming conference.)
* Stick your URL onto any physical product you sell in the hope that customers will see it when they need supplies or a replacement.
* A hardware component that's hardwired to connect to your site's service. Without the iPod, the iTunes music store wouldn't be nearly as successful.
* Mobile features. Search engines' back-and-forth interaction style is clumsier on mobile devices. Conversely, mobile provides added value for services that know their users and understand sufficient context to give them exactly what they need, when they need it -- perhaps without their having to ask. Thus, users are more likely to actually subscribe to mobile services than to seek them out every time they feel the need. Being an icon on somebody's BlackBerry gives you top-of-mind presence and significantly increases the likelihood that that they'll visit your website when they want to do business. (You might even get paid for the mobile service -- but even without payment, it's worth it in search-liberation points.)
In the dot-com bubble days, it was fashionable to discuss website stickiness. Now, stickiness must be reconceptualized for the real world rather than the bubble. It's not a goal to make users spend hours on your site. Let them go about their business.
The real goal is to make users come back, and to have them come directly to your site instead of clicking on expensive ads. The ideas above are just a few ways to encourage repeat business.
Further in-depth studies of user behaviors and customer needs should reveal many new ways of keeping users loyal.
Follow the link to go to Use It dot com and read the beginning of Nielsen's new article on why Search Engines, with paid sponsored results, can be "leeches" of web content.
This also shames me into remembering how I still need to fix my blog's more horrible problem: worthless archive categories.
See, when one of my blog readers, to use myself as an example, has a question about blogs, blogging, blogosphere, etc., I'd like it if they visited my blog first, to see what I might have written about the topic.
I like to think that what I've written on any blogological or web usability topic is practical, true, authoritative, referenced to reputable sources, complete, easy to understand, and even a bit funny now and then.
But how can they see what Vaspers the Grate wrote on CEO blogs, unless I have an archive category entitled CEO Blogs or maybe Business Blogging? Oh sure, they can type in "CEO blogs" in my blog's search engine, and probably come up with most of what I've written. Let's hope. I'll check this search term later.
Site search engines need to be greatly improved. After intuitive navigation, site search should probably be the next major avenue for a user to find specific content, including comments they themselves have posted on your blog, within your blog.
A fantastic way to keep readers coming back is to enable them to Subscribe to Replies to Your Comment, whenever a reader posts a comment to your blog. Chances are, if the post topic is hot, or the reader posted a good comment, there will be subsequent, further comments posted, thus an email alert will arrive the reader's inbox. Then the reader can follow the link provided, to see what others, including hopefully the blog author, replied to his comment, or to the topic in general.
Jakob Nielsen is the author I turned to when I first got on the web and was both delighted and confused with the web sites I visited. The first web dysfunctionalities I stumbled upon were sites that disabled the Back button on your browser ("mouse traps", "orphan pages", or "hall of mirrors" I think we call them). Where you are trapped on a web page, cannot even return to a previous page in the web site, nor the home page, nor is there any exit to anywhere available.
Other early web usability problems I noticed were design confusion, poor site navigation, valueless site maps, lack of welcome/user orientation to site, static/impersonal feel, broken forms, frequent lack of bios, credentials, affiliations--bordering on anonymous, or "fly-by-night" appearance, dense paragraphs, lack of hypertext links to verify source material quoted (still extremely common, especially, ironically, on "business" web sites), and corporate fluff "we-oriented" braggadocio super-hype wastelands.
Nielsen's book, "Designing Web Usability", and "Homepage Usability", are two of my guiding lights in most matters in this field.
Remember: subscribe to his Alertbox updates, so you can know more about smart web usability principles and user observation testing insights. Not "random opinion and arbitrary rules" as some anti-usability web designers whine, but observed characteristics of computer users interacting with actual web sites.
[signed] Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate