February 26, 2008

Thou Shall Not Blog

Bloggers Rights graphic by Lorelle VanFossenOver the years, as blogging has grown from fad to trend, I’ve traveled the world talking to other bloggers, many sharing stories of how they were confronted with new job contracts, agreements, and policies that state: Thou shall not blog.

My first response is always, “Why not?” Oh, I get an earful. It ranges from business practices to government limitations, and everything in between.

Here are some of the reasons why many people can’t blog.

Violation of Non-Disclosure

Let’s face it. We’re human. We make mistakes. We go forth with the best intentions and screw up. Often without thought. Knowing this, many businesses won’t risk the slip you may make as you free-wheel your thoughts publicly and disclose some of their proprietary information. Fear of disclosure is a huge issue for companies, a big incentive to bring out the papers for signature, banning blogging.

And there can be big money in such disclosures, too, an incentive for those to blog trade secrets.
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Popular Blogger Poised for Record Deal

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Mario Lavandeira, better known as flamboyant gossip blogger Perez Hilton, is supposedly in negotiations with Warner Bros. Records. The deal would reward him for discovering new music artists.

Lavandeira has already parlayed his blog into a television show, book, merchandise and now potentially the aforementioned record deal. Which leads me to a question:

Do you want your blog to take you beyond blogging?

For some, simply sharing thoughts on a given subject is enough. But others (this humble blogger included), are hoping to lay the tracks for a mini-media empire. By looking beyond the blog, you not only have the opportunity to reach a larger (and different) audience, but you’ll also have a chance to make a lot more money.

The Hilton record deal appears to be worth $100,000 a year, plus a percentage of music-sale profits.

Now might be a good time to ask yourself what you envision for yourself. Is your blog a vehicle towards greater success? Or is your blog just a blog?

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February 25, 2008

Northern Voice: Questions about Problogging

I just came back from the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada, and on the first day I held a session about being a full time blogger. Amazingly, three dozen people showed up to listen, and had many questions about getting involved with a blog network, or making it to a full time income on their own.

With so many resources in the blogosphere, I thought that everyone knew everything they needed to know.

For learning about blogging, we have Problogger.net, for finding a blog related job, we have Freelance Writing Jobs, and for learning monetization, we have John Chow, so why were there so many questions?

It seems that misinformation is one of the biggest issues, as well as feeling like probloggers are holding back the best secrets for themselves. Bloggers also seemed confused over the different advertising programs, and the business model surrounding bloggers and blog networks.

I really enjoyed talking at the Northern Voice conference, and felt like my session was well received. I tried to answer every question I could, and I hope to recount some of what I said on the Blog Herald as I have time.

If you are a blogger looking to go full time, either through your own blogs, or thanks to a blog network, what are your biggest questions?

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The Next Step in Geotagging Blog Posts

Bruce from bioneural.net is taking geotagging blog posts to the next level by developing a web standard icon. Geotagging is the act of adding geographical metadata to a piece of content such as a blog post.

The first important step in geotagging blog posts was made by cyberhobo who developed a plugin for WordPress that makes it very easy to annotate your blog posts and automatically puts them on a Google Map.

This is what a map with geotagged blog posts could look like:

Map

A more customized example of a geotagged blog map can be found on Shifting Pixels.

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Battling Ampersands in Your Blog Design and Code

The history of the ampersand, the & on your keyboard, is a long and fascinating one.

Geoffrey Glaister writes in his “Glossary of the Book,” is a corruption of and (&) per se and, which literally means “(the character) & by itself (is the word) and.” The symbol & is derived from the ligature of ET or et, which is the Latin word for “and.”

One of the first examples of an ampersand appears on a piece of papyrus from about 45 A.D. Written in the style of early Roman capital cursive (typical of the handwriting of the time), it shows the ligature ET. A sample of Pompeian graffiti from 79 A.D. also shows a combination of the capitals E and T, and is again written in early Roman script. Later documents display a more flowing, less formal Roman lowercase cursive, which evolved into our italic, and the appearance of a ligature et becomes more frequent.

In the modern online world, the ampersand is a handy abbreviation for “and” to connect words, a popular element in computer programming, a character in emoticons &| , and a hassle for site code validation and publishing code in your blog posts.
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Do You Monitor Your Online Reputation?

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The greater your success, the larger your number of enemies. That means, as your blog grows in visitors and subscribers, you will need to spend more time monitoring what others are saying about you. Of course, like most bloggers, this is probably the last thing you want to waste time on. Thanks to new online reputation monitoring tool Trackur, you can follow what others are saying, while not taking time away from content creation.

Web attacks can have serious consequences and you need to protect what you’ve worked hard to build. However, starting at $88 a month (14-day free trial), Trackur sure sounds expensive. I love the idea that you’re up and running in five minutes, but do I need to spend that much coinage to track news and social media Websites?

Users of the tool submit keywords that apply to their blog, name or product, then, any blogoshphere or social media mention will be reported and tracked.

Trackur offers three different levels of service, each including options to save searches, bookmark and forward items, and receive alerts via e-mail or RSS.

I haven’t tried the product yet, but I think the price tag will scare away many small and mid-size bloggers and businesses. However, I understand that you can’t put a price on defending your honor. What do you think?

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Don’t Sign Away Your Rights

Many bloggers dream about getting a recurring guest blogging position. Whether paid or unpaid, many bloggers toil in relative obscurity for years before being offered a chance to write for a large site.

However, the excitement of being offered a new writing position often causes bloggers, as well as other writers, to make serious mistakes. When they receive their first contract, they either do not read the document carefully or, in a desperate bid to please their new employers, sign the contract with little regard to the rights that they surrender.

However, when you sign your name to a contract, you are bound to it and signing a bad contract can have long-term consequences that can both limit the rights to your own work and the scope of your future projects.

No matter how good of a deal the contract seems to be, it is worth taking a moment to read through it and watch out for the rights that you may be giving away.

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Blogged.com new blog directory officially launches

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A(nother) new blog directory has officially launched today. Blogged.com offers ratings and reviews of the blogs in its directory, apparently based upon the quality of writing and how often the site is updated.

Blogs are initially reviewed by the Blogged.com “team”, but if enough visitors rank and review the blog, then that takes precedence.

Additionally, there’s a social networking element to the site, whereby visitors can bookmark and share blogs, and provide feedback. Blog owners can place a widget on their site and encourage their readers to vote. As usual, the whole thing relies upon links and traffic, so the widget is hardly a surprise introduction.

The site currently claims around 200,000 blogs indexed, though a great many of these don’t appear to have been reviewed yet, which (depending on the size of the team) is understandable.

I noticed that several of my own blogs were already included in the directory, without me submitting them. Interestingly, one was using a very outdated URL which forwards to the new domain name (I kept the forwarding in place when I moved to a dedicated domain over two years ago). Also, the RSS feeds don’t seem to update very frequently — one of my blogs still shows the latest entry from five days ago.

Additionally, my site about families and relationships is — according to Blogged.com at least — related to a couple of gambling sites plus the interestingly-titled “Webster’s Is My Bitch” blog. It would be interesting to find out a little more about how the ranking and related algorithms work — if the “Related Posts” plugin on my WordPress blog acted like that I’d give it the boot!

Will Blogged.com succeed? Will it get the advertising revenue it (presumably) needs to survive? Does the world need another blog ratings directory? Like many new sites, it has potential, but where will it be six months down the line?

For what it’s worth, Blogged.com is currently ranked around 122,000 in Alexa, and on the up, so it could do well. What do you think?

Blogged.com (via Webware)

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February 24, 2008

Google Love: GrandCentral Teams Up With Blogger (Voicemail Now Included)

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GrandCentral, a company Google acquired many moons ago has teamed up with Blogger in order to give BlogSpot users the option of posting vocals of their friends (or even themselves) online.
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How Young Is Too Young to Blog?

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Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a buddy of mine who works in a high school. He mentioned that juniors and seniors are required by the district to take courses in video editing (Final Cut) a photo manipulation (Photoshop). That means, there are 17-year-old kids coming out of school with the ability to do what many people in their twenties and thirties do for a living. Will this phenomenon sweep the rug out from industry “veterans?”

Thanks to a new initiative by the Scottish government, in the future, kids might learn how to blog – as young as THREE!

As part of a new literacy drive, students aged three to 18 can expect to learn about building Websites, blogging, podcasting and social networking.

According to Schools Minister Maureen Watt in Scotland, “They can reach a worldwide audience, so we have to teach them to do this well. We would be failing them if we just stand by and ignore these developments.”

According to recent studies, it is asserted that young Scots are falling behind their European counterparts because of their inability to speak foreign languages.

Forget verbal languages. These kids might be better equipped learning programming languages.

This is great for the youth of the world, but how will it translate to the workplace? As blogging know-how becomes more mainstream, can established bloggers expect to take a hit?

Learn more at BBC.

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