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April 23, 2008

Are Video Comments The Wave Of The Future?

Michael Arrington, owner of TechCrunch has recently allowed readers to post video comments upon all of the blogs apart of the “TechCrunch empire.”

The feature is powered by Seesmic, a service that Michael has invested in previously.

While video comments will probably help enhance the discussion (as you will have the opportunity to see just how ugly some readers truly are, especially if they have not shaved in a while), it could potentially compound the blog trolling problem, as individuals could simply shout out their annoyances at you instead of typing IN ALL CAPS.

Even though other types of abuses could be discussed (ranging from shameless promotional video comments to hard core porn), video comments may a feature bloggers should seriously consider adding to their sites–just as long as they are up to the challenge of moderating video comments posted to their site.

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April 21, 2008

Do You Take Links for Granted?

As a blogger, links have been part of my daily blogging rounds. I click links on blogs to check out references and sources. And I use links on my blog posts to provide readers relevant information or alternative sources of information. Links have been so prevalent in the blogging culture that sometimes we tend to take these for granted.

However, not everyone is familiar with links, and the relevance of hyperlinking in blogging and the Web in general.

For instance, consider someone from the traditional media. How would they consider links? Would they think of links as relevant or important, even? Formal studies and print publications would usually include footnotes or even endnotes with references. Or, sources can be referenced in the bibliographies or appendices. But what about links? Well, you can’t hyperlink from paper, can you?

In fact, I have a few colleagues whose background involves traditional media of all kinds (print journalism, radio broadcasting). They’re prolific writers, yes. But in a way, they are still not that familiar with using links when writing blog posts. Or perhaps they are, but they just prefer to stick to their way of citing material. The way they reference sources and related information is a bit different. But that is not to say it’s inadequate. Being from traditional media, they tend to be able to do better research, and to dig deeper into the facts.

Referencing Jonathan Bailey’s recent post about lessons for and from journalism, I would think that effective linking is another lesson that journalists can learn from the bloggers. Having good sources and references is one thing. But giving your readers easier access to these would definitely be better, especially in a more interactive environment.

However, this should be the case for bloggers, too. Effective linking would mean using links more sensibly and reasonably, and thus ensuring the quality of the links. Just like how a journalist wouldn’t cite bogus information, we bloggers should try our best to link only to the good stuff. You wouldn’t link to a scraper site to cite information, would you?

So here’s a challenge I pose to our dear readers. Whenever you see a hyperlink on a blog or a webpage, don’t just click on it blindly. Try to think about the relevance of that link. Why was it there in the first place? What was the intent of the author? Is it relevant at all? Is it even appropriate?

The search engines have been looking into quality of linkages (both inbound and outbound). Shouldn’t we humans start doing the same?

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April 10, 2008

Will The Blogosphere Suffer From A Microsoft-Yahoo Merger?

Never since the days of the net bubble has the web held its collective breath (or prepared the popcorn) regarding the Microsoft-Yahoo drama.

The affair has become so large (or bad, depending on your point of view) that non-geeks are even starting to talk about it (at least around this author anyways). But while some argue in favor of the “inevitable merger,” the Microsoft-Yahoo deal (aka MicroHoo) may potentially affect the entire blogosphere–for the worse.
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April 9, 2008

Did the Internet Kill Anticipation?

Filed as News with 4 comments

When the Internet first started to become mainstream, I was at the age when nothing mattered – except girls. Everyday I’d walk down the block to my buddy’s house. We’d boot up his beast of a computer and log on to Prodigy.

Seven letters/numbers stood between Queens, NY and the rest of the world: NCJG34B. My first assigned screen name.

Once logged in, the mission was simple: Find girls of the same age, initiate e-mail contact, exchange pictures through snail mail and eventually meet. Of course, this meeting had to culminate in some sort of ‘action,’ or else it was considered a bust.

If it worked like a charm back in the early 90’s, I can only imagine the number of casual hookups the Internet is responsible for today. It seems TOO easy. But isn’t it always when you’re happily married, sitting on the sidelines.

What’s my point? Here it is: I think anticipation has left the building.

As we move towards an on-demand society, I can’t help but wonder if something is lost with all of this immediate gratification. TV gets paused, albums leak weeks in advance and I can find the value of my home and the picture of an Ex in about eight seconds. This ‘information now’ trend has been spearheaded by constantly-updated blogs.

Information overload is here, and I’m kinda thinking it’s too much. Every good geek worth his or her salt loves data. But is there a downside to having access to too much stuff? Your thoughts please…

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March 30, 2008

Blogging vs. Human Content Aggregators

Filed as News with 13 comments

I recently blogged about my disdain for so-called ‘bloggers’ who rip and run with your content. You know the drill. You stay up late researching and writing a post, only to find it re-posted (at varying lengths) on other people’s blogs. Sure, they’re kind enough to attribute the story to you. But let’s be honest; how many people are gong to click-through to your Website to read other articles.

We all like to think that our writing is strong enough to lure people in to read more and earn them as a subscriber. But the majority of Web surfers generally take a glance and move on.

This tactic of copy and pasting within in a niche, does NOT make you an authority on a subject. In fact, I’m not even sure it should qualify as blogging.

Here in New York, how would the New York Times feel if the Daily News started to publish their stories – without permission – in there entirely. Even with proper attribution, it’s illegal and would never fly.

I’m sure there are plenty of you out there who take this route and do consider yourself bloggers. I’m open minded and willing to consider both sides of the argument. So let’s get the debate started:

If you grab content from multiple blogs, and do not offer your own commentary, should you be considered a blogger?

On the flip side, I will say that I thoroughly enjoy both the content and traffic generation offered by “blog catalog” Websites like Alltop.

However, I say these folks trying to pass themselves off as bloggers are nothing more than human content aggregators. What’s your take?

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March 17, 2008

Are you a fast blogger or a slow blogger?

Filed as Features with 9 comments

The philosophy of one of my favorite bakeries is that they allow the bread to rise up to 36 hours to ensure the best quality. It reminded me of the Italian ‘slow food’ movement as a response to the production and consumption of fast food. The general idea was translated into various aspects of life and gave birth to the ‘slow movement’ which may be considered as “a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace.” (Wikipedia)

However, the web seems obsessed with updates, it seems to be in an endless beta state fed by a perceived freshness fetish where updating quickly and instantly is the norm. Blogging may be seen as a medium where the freshness norm is illustrated in the daily update. New York Times science reporter Andrew Revkin recently stated that

Much of the power of the Web lies in speed and reach. But those same properties are the source of its greatest failing as well: the tendency to spread faulty assertions instantly and widely. Maybe it’s time for a “slow blog” movement, just as there’s now a slow food movement — and even a slow life movement, as described in The Times this week.

While blogs thrive on the update , the quick update in order to break the news first may also lead to the “fast-motion flow of misinformation.” A recent example is the Robert Scoble’s quick but inaccurate Twitter message stating that “revision3 just sold to cnet for $58 mil” which was humorously covered by Michael Arrington on TechCrunch.

While freshness is still the norm on the web there are also a few trends that propose to slow down. We are dealing with an increasing amount and speed of information which gave birth to the Getting Things Done hype. Dutch problogger Ernst-Jan Pfauth for example applies GTD to blogging in ‘how to process blog-related email Getting Things Done-style‘.

Both the slow movement and Getting Things Done are a philosopy and a lifestyle. Slow blogging proposes to take a step back, reflect and think. Carl Honore gave an interesting talk on ‘Slowing down in a world for speed’ at Ted 2007 (see video). Of course the Slow Blog Manifesto does not apply to all blogs and bloggers. Slow Blogging is a style and mindset that rejects immediacy:

It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament.

News blogs depend on quick and fast updates but depending on what kind of blog you run you have to balance between the speed of information and depth of information:

The best internet experiences balance the tension between speed and ease of access and depth of information. The superficial quality of speed is inherent to the net (just like water is wet) but that doesn’t mean it has to be accepted unquestioningly. The proliferation of information and our consumption and creation of it isn’t something that should be taken for granted. (Jesse)

Mari then distinguishes between two types of blogging:

There is and should be fast and slow blogging. Someone a while back made the point that the real issue is lazy blogging. I think that’s right. Fast blogging has its place in conveying news and starting conversation. Meanwhile, slow blogging is for thoughtful, considered analysis; for weighing all of the news that’s already been reported in fast blogging and by other media outlets. Both are good. Lazy blogging has no place. (Mari)

What kind of blogger are you? A fast blogger or a slow blogger?

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March 4, 2008

What’s Your Blog Idea Taking Tool?

I have a lot of great ideas never reach fruition for the simple reason that I fail or forget to take note so that they can be executed at a later time. This includes ideas for blogging. Every day, in persons I encounter or events I happen to observe, or places I go to, there’s bound to be something relevant to blog about. But unless I remember to do so later on, the thought will forever be lost.

For instance, I do a lot of thinking in the bath. But it’s a bit inconvenient to take an electronic gadget along with me (even if it’s as small as my Asus Eee), or even a pen or pencil and notepad (I hate soggy paper), and especially not my Moleskine notebook (sure, it’s oil-proof paper, but is it waterproof?). Of course, not everyone gets their Eureka! moments in the bath–unless perhaps you’re Archimedes. So in those instances I try to be conscious enough to make a mental note to make a physical note of my ideas.

But I tend to be forgetful and I have difficulty keeping focused.

So it’s always a good idea to have a handy means of keeping note of ideas. For some an electronic voice recorder does the trick. You can take it anywhere, and you can simply talk into it, and you can review your voice memos at your own time.

What’s great about voice recorders is that you can record voices other than your own. You can do interviews!

A digital voice recorder is the ultimate gadget to have when an interview needs to be done. You might, for example, bump into someone of important interest while being out and about. Let’s say you are at a blogger’s convention and have a few moments to talk to Darren Rowse of ProBlogger — wouldn’t it be a wasted opportunity if you couldn’t record an interview with him? Your readers might appreciate something like that. Depending on the type of blogs you write for, that missed opportunity could be very painful.

What about those of us who are more visual rather than aural in orientation? Perhaps a digital camera would be more ideal. After all, it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ve had many opportunities to take snapshots of interesting objects and views.

Trouble here is the bulk of my equipment. I shoot with a digital SLR, so unless I have the camera on hand (which is about 80% of the time) and can whip it out of its bag quickly, the moment is lost. And I have thousands of unorganized photos in my collection. So there you have it–my photoblog or blog image ideas are like lost streams of consciousness scattered around in thousands of images stored in my Picture folders and archived in DVDs.

But then there’s also an advantage when you bump into someone you’d like to interview. Photo ops are as valuable as recorded interviews, after all. Then there are those times when you encounter newsworthy events you can actually report on your blog. Photos can come in very handy.

Come to think of it, things don’t have to be as complicated as having to bring along a full-fledged digital camera and voice recorder everywhere I go. Even my inexpensive mobile phone can do that, as most other modern-day mobile phones do. It can take picture, record voice memos, and even video clips! Sure, quality wouldn’t be as good as when using a real digital camera, a real voice recorder or a real video camera. But it’s something I can always carry around in my pocket and whip out in a moment’s notice, ready to capture images, sounds or videos.

And for those quick personal information management (PIM) and simple note-taking needs, my phone also does wonders. Actually for this purpose any mobile phone with text capability will do, even if it doesn’t have photo, video or sound recording capabilities. One can simply type a short outline as a text message, and then save it as draft to later on expand and expound on. So for me, my phone serves as one of those gadgets that help me note down blog ideas.

However, my problem now is actually expanding or working on those ideas. My phone, my notebook, and even my online todo list are overflowing with great blog post, design, or business ideas but I could not work on them all at the same time! But that’s the point of note taking. You can have a record of all your ideas. Some of them might be great. Some not so. And you can prioritize and work on those that you think would prove to be valuable. For blog ideas, it’s just like news reports and feature articles in the magazines and newspapers–not everything can make it to press. It’s like movie or TV outtakes–not everything can make the final cut.

So don’t be afraid to jot down ideas. One of those might turn out to be really great ideas that can change the world!

Back to my question–what’s your favorite blog-idea taking tool?

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February 9, 2008

Ultraportable Blogging

Being in the new media business, I can run my office from anywhere. In fact I’ve converted a room at home to serve as my home office. You can usually find my various gadgets there–several laptops, a desktop computer, networking equipment and a huge heap of paper and digital media (also known as junk) on my desk.

Still part of my being on a telecommute setup is working from out of office. This means any Starbucks or other coffee shop with WiFi can be my satellite office, as I prefer to call it. With my 3G-enabled phone I can even work from anywhere with a cellular signal. So I’ve actually checked emails, published posts and made online money transfers in the parking lot, my daughter’s preschool and even the country club poolside, one time or another.

Bring it anywhere

I don’t know if it was out of an impulsive purchase decision or a well-thought of and justified necessity that I bought myself an Asus Eee PC last December.

If you don’t know what an Asus Eee is, you’re probably still living in 2007. The Asus Eee is an inexpensive ultraportable notebook computer that runs Linux. The Eee was among the hottest gadgets being retailed during the holiday rush last year. Some would say the Eee is akin to Apple’s MacBooks and iPods, being hip, cool and to-kill for. What makes it so cool are these keywords: inexpensive, ultraportable, and Linux.

Case in point: the Eee was sold out or in back-orders as quickly as a week or so after it was released in the US. It was the same case when it was first released in Asus’ homeland Taiwan and in various other markets.

How cool is the Eee? Well it’s severely underpowered by today’s mobile computing standards, running an underclocked 900MHz Celeron-M processor and sporting a teensy 7-inch display and an anemic 4GB of solid state storage. But what makes it great is the balance of portability and price. At $399 you get a full-fledged two-pound notebook computer you can work on, play around with and basically bring anywhere. And it has everything a mobile blogger would need, like WiFi networking, a built-in webcam and decent battery life. Good trade-offs, in my opinion.

Operative word for me was bring anywhere.

I’ve grown tired of lugging around my laptop everywhere I go just because I might find the need to act on some urgent online tasks (like fixing dead servers and embarrassing comment spam attacks). My full-sized laptop had been a constant fixture in my car trunk just because of this. And also just because of the pain the weight had been causing my back when I tote around my laptop backpack, I’ve mostly been leaving it in the trunk, hence defeating the purpose of my actually bringing the computer along.

So now that I have an Asus Eee, I can just slip it in any bag that can fit a medium-sized hardbound book. And I don’t mind the extra couple of pounds. I can blog and do other stuff from anywhere, and I actually have done so.

Changing blogging habits?

I’m thinking cheap ultraportables like the Asus Eee could change blogging habits because not everyone is comfortable lugging around $2,000 six-pound laptops just anywhere. And while laptop prices have dropped in the past couple of years, still not everyone could afford or justify that extra expense. And there’s always that worry that you your laptop can get lost or stolen in the cafe, mall or park. Losing $399 doesn’t hurt as much as losing $2,000, right?

In fact, the Eee is not the sole inexpensive ultraportable around. Other manufacturers have also been developing similar products, and some are already out in the market. These include the Everex Cloudbook, the XO PC (a.k.a. OLPC) and the Intel Classmate PC. While these are targeted at different markets, there is a common denominator–they’re ultraportable and inexpensive. And they could potentially be in everyone’s backpack, book bag, purse, handbag or briefcase.

So could the emergence of cheap ultraportables change your blogging habits? It has changed mine. It surely has made my life easier. My bag is lighter, my back aches less (but aches still because of hours and hours of work on the keyboard), and I feel more productive even when outside the comforts of my office. And with a 20-second bootup time, I can just whip it out and start typing within a few moments, whenever a good article idea pops into my mind.

Blogging and ultraportable computers make a good mix!

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February 5, 2008

Does Your Religion Influence Your Blog Writing?

In my husband’s family home, there is one resounding rule: Never discuss politics nor religion at the dinner table. While I’ve tried to keep that rule on several of my blogs, I’m about to break it.

There are a lot of bloggers who blog about their religion, but the bigger question is how much your religion influences your blog writing? Does it?

There is a whole industry of religious bloggers blogging on their religion. I haven’t found a united umbrella organization, but they are a growing industry as more and more religious evangelists and educators take to their blogs to share their faith with the world.

For these bloggers, their purpose is to blog about their faith. But what about the rest of the believers in a particular faith who blog. Does your religion influence your blogging style and writing?
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January 30, 2008

Blogging During A Recession

There’s no question that an economic slowdown in 2008 is a real possibility (otherwise, why would the Fed have cut rates for the second time in under two weeks?) Anyhow, even if you’re personally unaffected by a foreclosure a layoff, it doesn’t hurt to put the rose-colored glasses aside and just ponder how a recession would impact your blog.

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