November 30, 2007

Google: Blogger To Embrace OpenID, Google Reader Recommends “Drag And Drop”

While Google is being hailed for embracing openness regarding its wireless bid (not to mention its phone software), it looks as if that philosophy has infected Blogger (aka blog*spot).

The Blogger team has recently begun experimenting with OpenID, allowing users from AOL, LiveJournal, WordPress.com and Typepad to post comments using their own ID’s, or any registered OpenID that they may have.
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When Your Blog Forces You To Keep Your Commitments

KUOW/National Public Radio’s show Sound Focus (November 29, 2007) featured an interview with blogger and reporter David Swidler, of the Seattlest, about his project to learn how to cook by researching an “ethnic” recipe associated with the city the Seattle Seahawks football team was playing every weekend during the season. He wrote about the research he did on the city, and the recipes he would prepare that weekend in his Friday post. On Monday, he’d reports on how he did preparing the weekend football feast, and what he learned along the way.

While the purpose of his blogging is unique and fun, and definitely of interest to sports fans and cooks alike, something he said during the interview really caught my attention.
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You Are Your Own Brand Navigator

I don’t mean the big sports utility vehicle, although this is as big if not bigger than that — and it guzzles effort. Your brand is what you have in you. Strong brands are not the product of construct and fabrication — they are discerned, drawn out, then communicated to the world.

The first step in identifying your brand foundations is a journey of discovery at the heart of what you’re about. Who you are, what you do, your philosophy of life and how you behave in relationships. There is another important component to branding — and that is differentiation. So while your brand needs to express what lies inside you, it is also important that it holds into account what is around you.

Take for example the circle of your colleagues, other people who write about similar topics to yours, and the greater context of online publishing. What makes yours different? Are your posts branded with your unique style? Let’s see if you recognize these bloggers from their writing (you will need to comment to get the key, which I will insert at the end of the day).

Let’s take a look:

I love blogging. Its a fantastic online publishing medium that has an almost-zero barrier to entry. That is to say you can be up and blogging, literally, within 5 minutes. There are pre-fab blogging platforms today that are robust and give you many tools that even a few years ago, required some paying for, and even then, weren’t free. Not so today.

Today, the beauty is that anyone can be a publisher.

The downside? Its that anyone can become a publisher.

I’m making it really easy for you. What about this one?

I realized that I blogged best when I served my muse, my instincts for good blog content. Not the wishes of someone else telling me what I should blog about. Not my wishes to please my readers, blogging about something that I’m forcing myself to blog about. I blog best when I blog to support my spirit, not undermine it.

One last shot at identifying a blogger:

What does your audience need to know, enjoy reading about, collect and bookmark? Can your categories be benefit-led? Do you have the space for longer, more descriptive category names or does your template restrict you to single words? Is there a potential to get some search engine keyword fairy dust sprinkled over your category list? After all your sidebar links appear on every page of your blog ….

I chose these paragraphs because they illustrate how important branding is. Yes, the beauty is that everyone can blog so you can get started quickly and easily. The opportunity cost is if you overlook differentiation. As the second blogger states, you need to serve your muse, not be a copy of someone else, or write about things that feel unnatural to you.

Brand you should come through from everything on the screen — how you arrange the layout, if you allow comments, what content buckets you build on the side. These are all clues to your readers and contribute to forming a picture in their mind. Remember that they hold one piece of the picture in theirs so be the host you’d want them to experience.

This is the third side to the brand triangle — your readers and people who do business with you contribute to the perception of you in the marketplace. You will need to make sure that all of the experiences they have with you are the most meaningful and relevant to them. Whatever that means with respect to how you develop brand you.

Every respectable brand manager spends some time doing research. Once you have devised an overall message (your elevator speech) and business design, it is advisable to test it in the field. The good news is that you can do that on a small budget through your blog. Ask your readers, and observe what your readers do through tracking traffic patterns as well as their comments and links.

You should be able to distill a fine tuned strategy and direction from all the information gathered in these processes. Being yourself has never been easier — there is always room for tuning up, opportunity to stir in the right direction, and a need for plenty of energy. Be your own brand navigator and you are in the driver seat.

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The Blogging Friend Factor

I guess I am as guilty as anyone for this, after all I have written enough on the topic myself, but it gets me down than so much emphasis in blogging is on the money side now. Only yesterday I was reading how people should not bother starting a blog as they are unlikely to make much money at it. Is money the only reason to blog? No way!

It’s a lot like music. There is a pleasure in creating and performing music, regardless of if you get paid well. Yes there are a ton of people wishing to become rock stars, but many many more who will never be and are happy despite that. Does every musician dream of being a rock star? No. Does every blogger dream of making big money? I don’t think so.

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One in three US charities embrace blogging, beating business, study suggests

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A survey of 76 of the United States’ largest charities suggests that over one-third of them have embraced blogging as a way of informing and engaging with current and potential donors, and three in four use at least one form of social networking tool.

The University of Massachusetts study also found that nearly half of the charities surveyed thought that social media was a very important part of their fundraising strategy.

The university’s previous research into the blogging habits of Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies found that only 8% and 19% respectively were engaged in any official form of blogging — though it should be borne in mind that the dates of this research weren’t published in the article.

The university’s report noted that, “this research proves conclusively that charitable organizations are outpacing the business world in their use of social media.”

Charities surveyed said that their blogs were most often written by in-house PR or communications staff, and that their success was measured by basic statistics such as site hits or comments left, rather than money raised.

Around half said that their blogs were available via RSS feed. This either means that the other half are using proprietary content management software without a feed option, that they’ve deliberately or inadvertently removed feed functionality, or they’re just not aware that their blog is available as a feed.

The report, “Blogging for the Hearts of Donors: Largest U.S. Charities Use Social Media.”, surveyed charities including the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, Habitat for Humanity International and Easter Seals, and the full results of the survey are expected to be published next year.

(Via Computer World)

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November 29, 2007

SpinVox voted “best new service” at World Communication Awards

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SpinVox, the Voice-to-Screen messaging service that I looked at back in February, has won the “best new service” award at the World Communication Awards held last night in London.

The service can be used to post voice messages to blogs, including LiveJournal, Vox, TypePad, Blogger, Windows MSN Live Spaces and Moblog.co.uk, and with WordPress and Movable Type with the aid of an email Plugin. The service currently supports four languages: English, Spanish, French and German.

The judges described SpinVox Blog as “truly innovative and capturing the Zeitgeist”. SpinVox fought off strong competition to win the global award sponsored by Microsoft, including entries from Orange Business Services, 3 and Colt Telecom.

SpinVox CEO and co-founder, Christina Domecq, said: “This ‘Best New Service Award’ is a terrific honour. It is recognition of our drive to innovate and lead the market in bridging the gap between wireless and the Internet. We’re anticipating customer and market needs with simple, but smart services that make communicating and sharing experiences easier and more enjoyable. SpinVox Blog essentially allows people to blog instantly, anywhere, without losing the immediacy and emotion that brings the content to life.”

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Which Blogging Conference Would You Go To?

If you could choose from all the blogging conferences held around the world, which one would you most want to go to?

Don’t know which ones there are?

Coming soon, I’ll be reporting on blogging and blog-related conferences currently scheduled for next year. I mention a lot of WordPress meeting and conferences in my weekly WordPress Wednesday News reports, but I want to reach beyond WordPress to blogging conferences worldwide.

If you have a favorite blogging conference, please let me know so I can add it to the list. Know of blog-related meetups and groups in your area? Tell me here or contact me at: lorelleonwordpress@gmail.com.

I need links to the main site that hosts the event, as well as a description and dates, if available, for the events.

I’d also like to know why you recommend this event, and if you attended, what you got out of it.

If you are part of the group that produces blogging events, or know of people who are involved, I’m looking for you to help me create this big list of blog conferences.

If you haven’t attended a blog conference, would you? What do you expect to get out of such a meeting of bloggers or representatives of the blogging industry?

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A Friendly Reminder: Back Up Your Blog

Last week, I had a major freak-out when my blog suddenly became inaccessible. There was nothing wrong with its WordPress install, but the MySql database behind the scenes was stuck – I couldn’t access it via phpMyAdmin or SSH – breaking my blog completely and leaving me helpless.

While this was happening, I kicked myself for not backing up in the past few months, and sadly wondered if I would have to create a new database and recreate posts from scratch.

I eventually contacted my host (I don’t know what they did) and they got things working again – now all is well.

But my panic was a wake up call – a reminder that it’s important to back up your blog’s database – where all the posts you write actually reside. The files within your WordPress directory contain the code that serves up the pages, the themes, and plug-ins. But the heart of the blog – the actual content made up of hundreds of posts – is stored in a MySQL database that lives only on your server.

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A Quick Reminder For Bloggers At Blogger.com

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Bloggers who enjoy blogging anonymously at the Google-owned Blogger.com might want to hear about a recent legal kerfuffle in Israel.  Specifically, Global Voices Online reports that a local Tel Aviv court had recently ordered Google to hand over the IP of an anonymous blogger who wrote defamatory remarks on his Blogger.com hosted blog (they call the comments slanderous, but really, wouldn’t it be libel instead?)

To no one’s surprise, Google has worked within the boundaries of local laws, and has in fact, given up the IP of the blogger in question.  Further details over at TechCrunch have emerged that confirmed my own suspicions in the matter, in that Google did work through a process, but did give the IP over according to their own Terms of Service.

They read, specifically “Google may investigate any violations to “comply with any applicable law, regulation, legal process or governmental request” ”

I think there are some legitimate reasons for wanting to blog anonymously.  However, if you’re going to do it and you want to avoid persecution for whatever reason, clearly you may want to avoid doing it with a service such as Google.  They will do their best to work through local laws, but have long ago decided to work *within* those local boundaries in almost *all* of its services.

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Bloggers To Get Another Source Of Revenue: Posting Pictures

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It seems like Corbis, the world’s second largest stock photo service, is trying to catch up with Getty (The largest stock photo service) with the help of bloggers — and is trying to sweeten the deal by making it a bit of a win-win proposition.

Read/Write/Web has the details, but it seems like through a service called PicApps, blogs will be able to post images for their posts from Corbis’s vast stock library without any legal consequence.  The catch is that all of the images that are shown via PicApps this way will have a tiny bit of Javascript embeded in them, which creates a “roll-over” effect with advertising (see R/W/W for an example).

This will allow bloggers to avoid the potential copyright pitfalls with grabbing and posting images they have no rights to, and at the same time, allow them to earn a bit of the action as well.

No details at this time with respect to what the payout will be like, how they plan to roll it out and so on (will there be a limit to the number of pictures per post?), but it certainly looks like one extra way that bloggers can monetize their efforts.

Of course, for the purists who want to avoid the distractions of having a little bit of advertising on their blogs there have always been royalty-free alternatives, providing one knows where to look.

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