July 31, 2007

451 Press dubs itself as the largest blog network

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451 Press today dubbed itself as the largest blog network with 329 daily blogs published on a variety of entertainment and “edutainment” related topics. It also boasts of having 10 million visitors per month.

In order to give visitors a better sense of what blogs are being written and what topics they’re touching on, 451 has added a blog aggregator to its home page. Visitors can now see content as its published without having to check individual blogs for new content.

“We’re excited to see the network grow and expand so quickly. Our sites are doing great, and we owe that in large part to the great team of bloggers who’ve made the network what it is,” Steve Shickles, president of 451 Press, said.

451Press.com launched in September of 2006 with 10 blogs.

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WordCamp Summary: WordPress News

Yesterday, I covered a lot of the lessons learned, myths debunked, and some of the fun of . Today, I want to give you some of the WordPress-related news and some of the interesting things we learned about how WordPress and the WordPress Community works.

There are always a lot of questions about the difference between and .

In a nutshell, WordPress.com is the free hosted blog service run on WordPress and , the multi-user version of WordPress. It’s still WordPress, but allows a company, organization, or group to offer more than one blog for multiple bloggers with one core interface for the back end administration. Besides WordPress.com, is a great example of WordPressMU in action with more than 50,000 bloggers, all educators.

WordPressMU is not for the average user. It’s not even for a blogger who wants to run three or four blogs. It’s for the group that wants to offer thousands of blogs.

The unique thing about WordPress.com is that it runs on WordPress, therefore, it serves as a testing ground for all things WordPress. With more than a million users, , the parent company of WordPress, can test drive new features in a controlled environment with more than a million beta testers.

With this kind of testing, each new version of WordPress released for full version users gets stronger, faster, and more flexible as many of the kinks have been worked out on WordPress.com users.
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Where Are the Women Bloggers? They WERE in Chicago!

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Ever since I arrived in the blogosphere two years ago, I’ve been hearing, “Where are the women bloggers?” This past weekend we were in Chicago for the third annual BlogHer Conference held at Navy Pier. The event, sponsored by the organization of some 13,000 women, launched in 2005, offering a blogging conference that invited everyone, but limited speakers to women.

The event kicked off with the first General Session: Speed Dating for BlogHers, in which two massive circles of attendees faced each other as pairs to exchange introductions. Five minutes later one circle moved on to repeat their hello to the next BlogHer in the circle across. In the group of about 25 or so that I met. Many were charming new bloggers at their first conference of any kind . . . ever. Most of them had mommy blogs or were political bloggers. Two were conference sponsors.

The conference had sessions that followed six strands of information.

  • The Art of Life: Sessions on writing, storytelling, reviews, visual art, foodblogging, crafts, community
  • The Business of You: Sessions on branding and self-promotion, speaker training, media training, mentoring, turning a blog into a book, problogging
  • Community: Sessions on life stages of communities, raising money for causes, raising consciousness, women across the world, oppressed or silenced communities, inclusion and exclusion
  • Identity: Sessions on digital exhibitionists, blogs about body issues (weight loss etc.), intolerance, state of the momosphere
  • Politics: Sessions on election 2008, breaking news to Op-Ed, Patriots Act
  • Technical: Sessions on design, web standards, technical tools and traffic, workflow tools, taking your blog to the next level, multimedia labs, food photography

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Techrigy Announces “Web 2.0 Compliance” Software

Blogs and wikis can be great tools for companies and businesses. Blogs can be great marketing tools. Wikis, meanwhile, can be great for collaboration, especially among colleagues who are spread across the globe. However, there is a debate as to how manageable corporate blogs and wikis can be, especially in light of acceptable use policies, or the lack thereof, and companies firing employees for blogging about their work.

Andy Merrett recently asked here how controlled a corporate blog should be, given the mix of official postings and those that are more personal in nature. The bigger issue would be for a company to be able to scan the blogosphere for content elsewhere that is relevant to one’s industry or the company itself. While this can be part of the job of a corporate blogger or the company PR professional, tools that can automate this process make life easier. There are the free and obvious tools, like Google Blogsearch and Technorati, and of course you can chance by blog postings linking to your blogs or sites via analytics and metrics apps, such as pMetrics and Google Analytics.

Recently, startup Techrigy announced its SM2 software. To make “social media management” easier for companies, SM2 Social Media Manager basically monitors the company intranet, and the internet at-large for blog and wiki postings that are relevant to that company. They note that companies are afraid to get into blogging because of the risks.

SM2 will search the internet to discover blogs and wikis containing discussions about an organization. It will then monitor these media and provide notifications when a potentially damaging communication is posted. SM2 will also comb through an organization’s internal network to discover blogs and wikis and ensure that they meet corporate standards.

“Many companies still take the approach that no employees can blog or use wikis,” [Techrigy founder and President Aaron Newman] said. “This is not a profitable strategy, as employees are increasingly demanding the ability to use these tools. SM2 is a solution that enables companies to embrace these technologies and still maintain some peace of mind.”

The first phase of SM2, available this end July, will be a hosted service that will integrate with existing blog search technologies like that of Google and Technorati, and flag the sites that mention one’s company. The second phase, to come later in the year, will do the same for wikis and blogs located in the company intranet.

Discover blogs and wikis running on your intranet and discussing your company on the internet.

  • SM2 performs internal scans to find blogs and wikis operated inside your organization.
  • Search engines are utilized to find blogs and wikis operated by individuals associated with your organizations or those that mention your organization.
  • User decides which blogs and wikis to record and monitor.

Monitor blogs and wikis to ensure that liabilities are not being created.

  • SM2 schedules automatic scans to determine if damaging information has been posted.
  • Comes loaded with keywords and phrases for which to monitor.
  • User can create customized rules for which to monitor.
  • Real-time notifications if a violation is discovered.

Retain communications in case of litigation.

  • Blog and wiki postings are recorded.
  • Communications are stored and indexed.
  • Can be instantly reproduced for evidence requests.

Techrigy’s rationale behind SM2 is that organizations need to retain “control over what information employees are distributing through these [social] media,” to help manage the associated risks. So for instance, with the application, companies can make sure communications are backed up for later reference, that employees use adequate disclaimers when using social media, that no confidential nor copyrighted material is published by employees, and that employees don’t harass each other online.

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July 30, 2007

WordCamp 2007 Summary

As one of the more than 400 participants at the on July 21-22 in San Francisco, a fantastic gathering of WordPress developers, hackers, bloggers, and fans, I’m still reeling with all the positive feedback and lessons learned during the jammed-packed weekend.

To sum it up, it was a weekend of the social and the myths. A lot of social interaction, networking, discoveries, and incredible lessons in the social nature of blogging, spiced with a lot of blogging and web myths brought out from the shadows into the light and blasted away. I’ll cover the social and many of the myths in part one of this two part series, and tomorrow, I’ll share more about WordPress-related tips and news.

While my presentation was on making those blogging connections, the whole weekend was filled with meeting the whose who of WordPress and the WordPress Community. I met bloggers of all different types and styles and found commonality beyond just sharing our love of WordPress.

It’s clear that the blogging community, as well as the WordPress Community, is alive and full of energy and enthusiasm. I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me during the weekend asking how they could help with the , the online manual for WordPress users, and on the and other volunteer activities within the WordPress Community.

We rubbed shoulders with the creme de la creme of blogging and the web such as John Dvorak and Om Malik, the master of WordPress , Matt Cutts, and Dave Winer, considered by many as one of the fathers of blogging. Ego went out the window as we were all bloggers there to learn more about our favorite blogging tool.
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Plagiarism-Fighting Network Tooks: Part Two

In the first part of this series, we discussed whois and DNS/reverse DNS, the two most fundamental tools in tracking down and stopping a plagiarist or a site ripper.

Though they are powerful and important tools, they are not perfect. Definitively tracking down the host, the goal of almost any plagiarist/scraper hunt, often times requires delving into more advanced tools, including IP whois and traceroute, both of which we will discuss here.

As with the first article, we will continue to use Domain Tools as our primary resource for these tools. However, even though Domain Tools automates many of these functions, it is important to know the how they work both so we can use them elsewhere if needed and to understand their limitations.

So, without further ado, here is how to definitively track down the host of a Web site and determine who to send notification to.

IP Whois

In the first article, we learned how to find the IP address of a plagiarist site using DNS. However, that IP address is more valuable than just a number. That IP address “belongs” to someone. Though some large organizations own very large IP blocks, most IP addresses are distributed to ISPs by registries such as the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).

A reverse IP lookup simply identifies who the owner of that particular IP address is. Separate from the traditional whois lookup, which tells you who registered the domain name, the IP whois lookup lets you know who owns the IP address itself and, thus, who is responsible for the server located there.

To perform a IP whois lookup on Domain Tools, simply click the red “W” next to the IP address. It will take you to a page like this one that displays information about the company or organization responsible for the IP number.

You can perform an IP whois on ARIN’s site as well as the sites of the other IP number registries.

Well over 99% of the time, an IP whois will tell you who the host of a site is definitively and give you the information you need to track down the host. In the vast majority of cases, this is the tool that I, and other plagiarism hunters, use to determine who the host is and find out where to send a notice.

Traceroute

The only problem with an IP whois is that it can not account for situations where an ISP or other organization buys a block from the registrar but then sells them or leases them to another company. Though another company is responsible for the server at the IP, the information in the lookup will be for the first company.

Though this happens very rarely since most ISPs and hosts want to own the IPs they use, it does happen occasionally. I recently noticed a situation similar to this with some sites hosted on Verio. Resolving that situation and finding the host requires using a different tool known as a traceroute.

A traceroute simply tracks Internet traffic as it goes to the server. Since all Internet traffic goes through a series of routers and servers, it is possible to track the “hops” and look at where the site is actually hosted.

When you perform a traceroute on an IP, such as this one, you see a series of connections. The ones at the top are the ones closest to where the traceroute started and the ones closest to the bottom are closest to the destination, or site you are trying to look up.

By looking at the domains and information for the last few hops, you can usually determine who is hosting the server. This information can be useful two different ways. First, you can use it to detect when a smaller host is leasing servers from a larger one, such as when a small foreign company is reselling space from a larger, more local, Web host. Second, it can also detect a situation where the IP whois information is not completely accurate.

To perform a traceroute on Domain Tools, simply click the purple “T” to the far right of the IP address on the main whois page. It will feed you the traceroute results automatically, but bear in mind that it will begin at their traceroute server, not your home machine.

Though using a traceroute is almost always definitive, performing and interpreting one is complicated and time-consuming, often times there are several domains to research and the results, depending upon the network structure, can be confusing to read. The relative simplicity of IP whois makes it a much better choice for tracking down a host, but leaves the traceroute tool as a necessary backup.

Conclusions

Using the four tools discussed so far, one can easily and definitively track down nearly any host on the planet. To escape detection using these tools a host would most likely have to be engaging in either unethical or outright illegal behavior. Any reputable host should be easily identified using these methods.

However, in this day and age of automated scraping and spam blog networks, sometimes finding the host isn’t enough. Sometimes the operation stretches out much farther and it is important to track down as much of the operation as possible.

Doing that requires the use of still other tools, which we will discuss next week in the third and final part of this series.

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July 28, 2007

Twitter Gets Funding from Union Square Ventures

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Microblogging service Twitter has recently announced that it has raised funding from Union Square Ventures. In the announcement, neither Twitter and Union Square disclosed the amount of the undertaking, nor any specific business model they are looking into. Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures stressed, though, that they are particularly interested with how Twittering is emerging as a new form of communication on the Internet.

Twittering is an emerging new form of communication on the Internet that changes the expectations associated with other forms of communication and yet it’s fundamentally different than blogging. Twitter provides a platform for banter that blogging doesn’t and it’s available in so many places via IM, mobile text messaging, or the Web that it induces a different sort of behavior. Twitter encourages people to adapt and invent behavior to suit their needs.

Twitter intends to use the funds to “grow [its] resources and focus on the important tasks ahead.” Twitter will continue to work with Charles River Ventures, and cites Marc Andreessen, Dick Costolo, Ron Conway, and Naval Ravikant as angel investors.

[via 901am]

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July 27, 2007

What’s the other “R” in Reputation?

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the famous song by Otis Redding popularized by Aretha Franklin: Respect. Your reputation is built in large part on it. No respect, no love. Respect is the shortest path from occasional browsing and visits to your blog to loyal readership. It comes before admiration. Without respect there can be no long term connection.

Strong brands form the basis for a genuine connection with the communities and networks they operate in. For people to let you get up close enough to touch them in some ways, for them to remember you, for them to give you permission to fill their inbox and RSS reader, they need to respect what you write about and who you are.

So how do we get that respect? I recently took another look at a list I made for myself based upon Kevin Roberts’ Lovemarks – the Future Beyond Brands. What applies to the best brands, can work for you, too.

Getting respect demands that you:

Perform, perform, perform – respect grows out of performance at each and every interaction. You may think of performance in athletic terms as in being at the top of your game. Performance is honed with practice. Write a lot, experiment with the styles that feel comfortable to you. Request feedback from people you admire and take it to heart. Temper that by taking some of the advice with a grain of salt because you want to…

Pursue innovation – we expect it of others and we should hold ourselves to the same standard of continuous improvement. My definition of innovation is looking at things with new eyes. You know what it feels like when you think about a topic for a post and see a new angle that no one else has covered. What is innovation to you? To me innovation also requires that we…

Commit to total commitment – this is not a play on words. It really means going whole hot, being completely for it. The blogosphere is very active and very opinionated, I’m sure you’ve noticed. People will judge you at every interaction, every post – a bad experience means people are not coming back. At the same time, you want to…

Make it easy – for people to stick with you, what you’re about needs to be apparent. Also, don’t make it difficult for readers to find you. I am amazed at the number of blogs I read where I cannot find an email address to contact the author. This brings me to the next suggestion…

Don’t hide – some of you may smirk at all the memes that make the rounds. “I am way too busy being important to participate” some have declared. That’s fine, it may work for them. Consider this: people can respect you only if they know who you are. Would you prefer it was others to tell your story? I say you should…

Jealously guard your reputation – All the interactions and experiences of you contribute to building your reputation. Do you get back to people when you say you would? Do you deliver on your promises? When you do that you…

Get in the lead and stay there – there’s lots of talk about leadership here, leadership there. What does it mean to be out front? Think about it. It can be uncomfortable and risky. There is a lot of responsibility and visibility associated with being a leader. The more notoriety and fame, the harder the fall – so you always want to…

Tell the truth – be open. If you don’t know something, say so. We can’t be all experts at everything. Admit mistakes. The worst thing you can do is cover up, people find out. Cite your sources, share the credit. This all goes to build your reputation, which can then give you back in premium defense if things ever get tricky. You assure that they won’t if you…

Nurture integrity – if we look up a definition of integrity this means basing your actions on an internally consistent framework of principles. It is based on your acting on a core set of principles that are the foundation of your character. Remember you have character, you build reputation. What is your definition of integrity? To me it also means you…

Accept responsibility – Yes, we understand that we need to act responsibly and stand behind what we write. I’m thinking more broadly. Is our voice and contribution going to more clutter, dissonance, and noise or is it going to make the world a better place for everyone? How would we do that? Create self-esteem, wealth, prosperity, jobs, choices, etc. And once you’ve built all that…

Never pull back on service – that is the place where a mere transaction becomes a relationship, the first moment of truth. Think of your readers as customers. Even if no money ever changes hands, they are giving you a valuable resource – time. Make sure their time is well spent. If they didn’t find what they were looking for, that’s a reason to find out what that was. This is how you blog and ideas are evolved. This is how you grow. To help readers find what the need…

Deliver great design – this is the attention economy 101 principle: design rules. How do we design a great experience? Pininfarina designer Jason Castriota, best known for his Ferrari exteriors, said “The difference between beautiful and ugly often comes down to one millimeter.” For design to deliver a great experience it has to be aesthetically stimulating and functionally effective. Don’t just act different, be different. Take a look at your blog. How can you customize your template to fit your brand? To me design is to experience like impact is to value. It matters a great deal. And…

Don’t underestimate value – people will give you respect only when they perceive that the value they are getting from you is higher than their cost in attention, time, energy, etc. Value is not something that fits a boilerplate measurement. I read some blogs because they help me challenge my thinking. That’s the value those authors represent to me. What’s your readers’ return on involvement? Ultimately, to get respect, you need to…

Deserve trust – the blogosphere, online forums, chat groups are all environment in which it may seem easy for people to trust each other. The talk is generally up front and open. Your readers want to trust you and that means that they will want you to remain consistent and true to the ideas and aspirations you share with them. Walk the talk. You don’t’ want to…

Never, ever fail the reliability test – this builds on everything else we’ve said here. Because so many of us are now publishing, sharing ideas and best practices, teaching what we know, expectations have risen. Posts need to make sense at the first paragraph, the design needs to complement the content, we are always online looking at what everyone else is doing. You get the idea – if content is queen, reliability is king.

No respect. No Love. No connection. Next post we’ll talk about five ways to get respect.

Meanwhile there were some questions built in the flow to consider:

Do you deliver on your promises?
What does it mean to you to be out front?
What is your definition of integrity?
How do we design a great experience?

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10 Minute Blog Tips: Are You a Social Blogger or a Hermit Blogger

Some times we are so focused on our own writing, our own blogs, our own promotion, that we forget there is a whole world of blogging out there.

How often do you go out and really connect with other bloggers? I mean really connect, not just drop a few comments here and there in order to get noticed.

Todays 10 Minute Tip is … go out and connect with people

  1. Really read what others have written and comment or email
  2. Join a blogging forum and get to know the members, ask and answer questions
  3. Use messaging or even better call a blogger on Skype and have a chat

By reaching out to fellow bloggers you expand your field of view and release yourself from being trapped in your own ego bubble. You will find as well as helping other people, which is rewarding in itself, you will generate far more ideas.

Of course you might be happy sitting in your blog-cave growing your beard and toenails, I know I prefer to be a social blogger :)

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Is Your Blog a Conversation Blog or Answer Blog?

I was recently asked why I don’t have more comments on . The answer is simple. That blog is an answer blog.

It is my “job” writing about WordPress and blogging to give the answers people are seeking. I may ask questions of my readers, but it’s part of the style of that blog to have you leave knowing all the answers, or having a pretty good idea of what the answer is.

That’s the job of a technical blog. Giving answers, not questions. For that blog, it’s not about the Q&A. It’s not about the conversation. It’s about the information and education. That’s what the readers want. Few even read the comments. They are just there for the answers.
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