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March 21, 2008

What Do You Bring to a Blog Conference?

I’m getting ready to speak at three conferences in a row about blogging and WordPress, and something Rachelle Chase said at a conference we spoke at recently keeps popping up in my head. She spoke about techniques for making yourself memorable that she uses when she meets people who can help her with her business and blog.

Rachelle Chase JewelryShe contracted with a local artist to create autographed unique artwork in the form of a necklace and travel mirror. Decorated with text from her books and quotes about her books and blog, she sells them on her blog, but also gives them away to journalists and interview subjects as “reminders” of who she is and what she does. They are unusual and memorable, and say a lot about her, her work, and her blog.
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March 17, 2008

Blogs Are Public Documents – Bloggers and Commenters Beware

you think you’re so smart - graphic copyright Lorelle VanFossenAmber of Lamb and Frog is covering Monday Mayhem, specifically the mayhem that erupts when a commenter cross the lines.

I’m not sure how many of these commenters have ever written anything for public consumption other than their inane comments. A blog? A magazine article? Anything that you actually got paid for? Do you know anything about writing at all? Let me fill you in…

Blogs are public documents. The best bloggers with the most popular blogs know this. They choose and edit the material they post to reflect their blog’s message or style. That doesn’t mean that the content can’t be personal, it just means that it rarely reflects the entirety of the blogger’s existence. Why? Because even if your daily life is freakishly entertaining (what…now you’re Paris Hilton?) hearing nothing but unedited lists of exploits day after day makes for boring reading in short order.

She cites some recent blog posts by friends who are frustrated with stupid and ignorant commenters, including:
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February 8, 2008

Fighting Bloggers Take the Heat

In Do You Avoid a Fight by Chris Garrett here on the , he talks about bloggers picking fights or avoiding them, explaining how you can learn from those who disagree with you:

Those people, once calmed down, are extremely valuable to you. They are a chance to see another side, to improve what you do, to clarify your thinking. This is why you must always mean what you say and say what you mean.

If you really believe in what you write then you can welcome the chance of debating your point. That is not to say you should go looking for a fight, but if a fight finds you then you can be prepared for it.

I love criticism, when it is helpful. If you challenges me on an issue, I may not like what you have to say, but you have a point and you are welcome to it. I will listen, sifting it through my personal value sifter, and maybe you make sense. Maybe I can learn from the criticism. I’ll thank you one way or the other because I value my readers input that much.
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December 13, 2007

Improving Your Blog: Why Blog?

I’m often contacted by companies who tell me they need a blog. “So how do I get a blog?”

“Why do you think you need a blog?”

“Everyone’s got a blog. I need a blog.”

No, you don’t. Not everyone nor every business needs a blog. Should they? Maybe? But do they need one? Absolutely not.

If a static website, a billboard on the web, is enough for their customers’ needs, giving them basic information about the company, its employees, location, driving direction, and products and services, that’s good enough. Why blog?

If the business has a strong customer service base that is Internet savvy, and it wants to improve its online identity and reputation, then maybe a blog is worth considering.
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November 15, 2007

Visiting the Web Past: Lillian Vernon, Catalog and Web Pioneer

A few years ago, I found an article on SCORE, a non-profit group of retired professionals, by the veteran catalog guru, Lillian Vernon, called From My Kitchen Tabletop to Your Computer Laptop.

In the fascinating article, she shares her insights and history of the Lillian Vernon Corporation and catalog from a small kitchen business to a worldwide company with millions of dollars in sales online every year.
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November 13, 2007

Improve My Site: Why I Returned The Money From a Paid Web Consultancy Job

Eager for my expertise, a company recently hired me to improve their web traffic by reviewing their web design, content, and structure.

I don’t do “web traffic” work. Traffic isn’t important. The numbers aren’t important. The ones who stick around, and pay for the privilege, aren’t on a normal score card. To influence me to take them on, they told me that they wanted to improve their online presence, visibility, and really connect to their customers, expanding their reputation to a global market, as well as be more attractive to modern shoppers and web users.

Basically, their site was six months old and not working for them. They wanted an expert to tell them why. With misgivings, I decided to take them on. In the end, I gave them their money back. Here’s why.
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November 12, 2007

Three Lessons That Will Change Your Blog

Lessons in blogging come from many sources. Recently, I attended a concert by our friend, John Doan, a master harp-guitarist and storyteller (see YouTube Video). As he finished his set, he shared a story about his long-time friend, Burl Ives, and a moment they shared not long before the famous singer and songwriter died.

John has graciously allowed me to share some of that story, and its lessons, applied to blogging.

John Doan was among a team of fellow performers paying tribute to Burl Ives through his music, and was asked to perform a child’s song, one with which he had trouble relating. He went to Burl’s bedside and told him of his struggles, including how he could best honor his friend through this silly children’s song.

Burl shared three important lessons that John continues to use today, lessons for all of us, especially for bloggers.
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November 8, 2007

Number One Rule in Blogging: Play Nice or Pay

What is slowly being understood by many is that this freedom to publish your words comes with a responsibility. As James Farmer said recently in The Age:

…if we stuff up, and let through a defamatory comment, then that’s potentially hundreds of thousands in damages or legal costs.

Freedom of speech does not mean you can say anything you want about anything or anyone. Our words, and the comments we make and allow on our blogs, have a responsibility that comes with publishing.

We are constantly at risk of plagiarism by blockquoting each other’s work. We love saying inflammatory things that brings a lot of traffic and attention, but sometimes lawsuits and laws.
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November 2, 2007

Blogging Outside of Your Community By Not Blogging in Your Native Tongue

Yesterday, I wrote an analogy of comparing blogging to dancing, and how it helps to know the steps, but I also addressed the issue of blogging in your native language compared to blogging in English.

Words carry a responsibility. They convey meaning. They reek with intent. Change a word and you change the meaning.

I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating. While teaching English to a doctor in Israel, we practiced how to ask for directions on the street. After many attempts to stop a passerby, he came up with, “Excuse me, can you please help me?”

In the execution, as I “passed by” in the imaginary street of my apartment, map in hand he called out, “Excuse me, can you please me?”

One word, or the lack thereof, changed the whole intent. Such is the risk one takes when they write in a language in which they lack the appropriate fluency.

A person writing in a language that is not their own, especially when those words are published for all to read, may bear a responsibility to their readers to disclose that the language in the blog is not their native language, thus, giving readers a chance to forgive them before they correct them. Once we know, we are a very forgiving lot. If we don’t know, we can be a vicious gang with our attacks.
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August 17, 2007

What Is the Return on Your Investment in Social Media?

I was recently asked if signing up for a social linking service was “good” for the blogger.

How can I answer that?

First, what’s good for you as a blogger may not be good for me. How would I know what’s good for you?

Second, social media services are popping up all the time. Do they work? I don’t know. How much money has anyone honestly made from Twitter recently?

Hours a day are spent twittering, but does it really enhance your reputation, bring business through your virtual door, increase traffic and revenue on your blog, or just bring in money directly? Is it working for you, and only you? Or is it working for everyone?

You probably have a facebook, myspace, mybloglog, and numerous other social accounts in addition to your blog. How is that really working for you? Are these multiple services bringing in the traffic, and are they hanging around for good? Are they making you money? Are they building your reputation that brings in indirect income through consultation and services? Or are you neglecting your blog?

What about all those links you added to del.icio.us, Digg, Spurl, Furl, Reddit, and so on? Are they bringing in the traffic they once did? Are you still seeing the benefits? Or are the benefits now diluted because everyone is doing it and it’s so hard to find anything because there is so much too look through?

What about Technorati and all those tags you smeared all over your blog, which you thought would bring you a lot of traffic from Technorati. Does it still?

Does anyone use Technorati as a search engine or directory any more? Honestly. When you use it, you go looking for yourself, don’t you? You don’t begin your search there, do you? Do potential readers?
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