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3 years of The Blog Herald: the good, the bad and the ugly

3 years of The Blog Herald: the good, the bad and the ugly

Duncan Riley> I’m not quite ready to post my final farewell yet as the site transfer is slated for this weekend, and I’ve agreed to stick around for a couple of weeks whilst the new owners get settled in (but I’ll be obviously restricting my comment pieces…I don’t want the new owners to start off with legal threats :-) ). But before I bid adieu I wanted to indulge in a little bit of reminisce. I’m not quite at the thanking people stage yet, that will be my last post before handover.

3 years of The Blog Herald

The First Blog Herald challenge
In the days before the term link bait even existed, I had my first big hit based on a competition to record the song The Day the Blogging Died, written by Christian Churmlish of Radio Free Blogistan. We only had 3 or 4 entries and Christian ended up winning, and the prize was only $20. This was in the days though that the blogosphere was very, very small, so although the traffic wasn’t huge it bought the site to the attention of some of the then A-Listers, and it grew from there. The words to the song are still great today. Maybe someone should open it up for a new competition today….the song lyrics were published under a CC license, and I’d love to hear it on the radio :-)

Star Wars Kid Blog Charity: Help, Publicity Stunt or Fraud?
My first flame war. Andy Baio of (who I believe now works at Yahoo on a Web 2.0 project) was fairly well known at the time in the blogosphere, but his traffic went through the roof when he posted a video of a poor, unfortunate fat kid who was caught pretending to play a Star Wars character. Indeed at the time went to No. 1 on Google for Star Wars kid, and for a few months it was the hottest viral video on the net.

Baio wrote at the time he posted the video:

‘€œIf you’€™re going to videotape your Star Wars fighting skills on a school camera, remember to remove the cassette when you’€™re done. Watch this embarrassingly good video’€?

And yet a little later, once he became known as the No. 1 source, his traffic was massive for a blog (in that day) and he was being interviewed by the MSM, he strangely decided to write this when he announced a donation drive for the kid:

‘€œI thought he deserved better. This video was uploaded to humiliate an awkward and overweight computer geek…I personally feel that he is like me and all of my friends,’€?

And yet he still hosted the video. I called it as I saw it, a got a whole pile of flames via the comments and email for it. Later I accepted that Andy had not intended for it to come across this way, although I still believe today it was extremely poor judgment to profit from the suffering of a child.

The SixApart/ Mena Trott files
This causes mixed emotions in me even today. Back when MovableType was really the only game in town, it’s fan base was like a rapid cheer squad, and I was one of it’s strongest members. Then we had MT 3.0, and the world changed. SixApart essentially put up a sign to all the people who had helped put it where it was today (and then) and said F.U., we’re going to charge you for MT now unless you want a basic, poverty model cut down version off it. The blog storm against it was amazing (and I’d think has probably never been repeated since), and very few people supported the move. SixApart backflipped on the pricing model twice, which was some improvement, however by this stage the cheer squad was already on the move, mostly to WordPress. I can only describe my feelings at the time as anger, and Mena Trott made it worse by writing at the time that they had “improved” the pay model, and never conceded the mistake, (at the time, I think she did later) nor apologised for it (and as far as I’m aware she still have never said sorry to this day). Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, because I find generally that many American’s seem to have problems with saying sorry for mistakes, even today. I became the flag bearer for a hard core group of people who pretty much felt the same way, and it showed in my writing.

Eventually of course I realised it was time to move on from this, and today I’ve settled my differences with some at SixApart. In part it was wrong to hold onto this for such a long time, although it wasn’t made easier by a number of serious bungles from SixApart throughout the last 2 years. I still to this day believe that what SixApart and Mena Trott did was disgusting…but I suppose in some ways the longer you blog the quicker you learn to forgive and/ or forget. I’ll never personally forgive Mena for what she did to so many people who were members of the SixApart/ MT cheer squad, but I have since moved on and started looking at SixApart from the perspective of a glass half full instead of a glass half empty. If Anil Dash is reading this, he’ll probably think to himself it’s about time as well :-) Life is too short, after all,

The Jason Calacanis experience
I first started receiving emails from Jason Calacanis when he first set up Weblogs Inc.,…they were strange, short, and included the words (regularly) of “no love for Weblogs Inc?”. Yep, Jason Calacanis blegged his heart away for links and coverage when he started Weblogs Inc., like we all do to some extent. At the time I didn’t have much time for Weblogs Inc., because they were another small player and I honestly at that stage didn’t get the model he was trying to work with at all (remembering that there were virtually no advertising on blogs at this stage (outside of, and nothing had really been done like this before…it was new!). I’ve exchanged the occasional email over the years with J-Cal, and I’d have to say that watching Weblogs Inc., grow would be one of the most interesting things I’ve observed as the editor of The Blog Herald. J-Cal helped create a market for blog advertising, and he really created the blog network model that so many follow today. If they ever start a bloggers hall of fame I’ll be nominating J-Cal.

Helping people in need

The biggest amount of comments I’ve ever had at The Blog Herald was with the Hurricane Katrina posts, particularly the post dedicated to matching up survivors. This post had 450 comments (the highest for any post I’ve ever written) and I actually managed to help people reunite with their families. It was amazing, it really was. The traffic spiked to something like 100,000 uniques a day for 3 to 4 days as well.

Helping bloggers
Sure, its not life and death like Katrina, but it’s been wonderful none the less. Over the years I’ve lost count at the number of people who have emailed me to thank me for some of the advice, tips, and links I’ve put up at The Blog Herald. I’ve discussed this with Darren over at Problogger before and he feels pretty much the same way: helping people is personally rewarding, and I’ve had plenty of personal rewards over the years. There is something just amazing in receiving an email from a person thanking you for helping them get their blog off the ground, or in helping taking that blog from virtually no traffic to one that is highly successful, and looks good as well. To everyone who has ever sent me an email, or I’ve helped directly or indirectly, it was a pleasure, and I’d happily do it all again tomorrow.

The mistakes
The Bad: I’ve made a few mistakes at my time at The Blog Herald, but I’ve certainly learnt alot from them. The biggest mistake I ever made was calling Jason Calacanis and Weblogs Inc out over Hurricane Katrina. I was watching and reading all this stuff, and had been reading the comments from the post for people looking for survivors…and I made a very bad call in an emotional state (reading those comments is also the only time I’ve ever cried whilst reading comments on a blog…). I apologised to J-Cal at the time, and I’ll say it again, Sorry J-Cal, I f*cked up. There other times as well, but I don’t really recall them like I do this one. The lesson though for everyone: if you make a mistake say sorry. It’s really not a hard word to use.

See Also
part-time work

The Technology
You know on of the best things about blogging, particularly if you are a DIY blogger is that you end up learning so much about the tech stuff behind it. The older versions of MT were always a bit clunky in the coding (for example tables as opposed to CSS) and perl isn’t exactly an easy language to learn, but once I eventually moved over to WordPress, I picked up PHP in no time. (Oddly enough the main reason I held back from switching for probably six months was a fear of PHP because I didn’t know anything about it :-) ). These are skills that can be applied outside of blogging as well, and I’ve done things since such as designed web pages with WP as the back room for the site.

If I was to nominate something in the “ugly” file though that would be my experiences with Web Hosting. The Blog Herald has lived at 5 (or is that 6?…I’ve nearly lost count) web hosts. Back in 2003/04 when blogging only first starting to become well known, a number of web hosts actually wouldn’t allow you to hosts blogs! (seriously!). The ones that did allow it didn’t know much about them at all, and there were widespread reports of web hosts banning accounts from users who used MT (and even later WordPress). Things have only marginally improved today. Sure, most web hosts now market 1 click blog setups in their packages, but what I’ve found with web hosting is that they’ll promise you the world to get you to sign up, and once they’ve got you they won’t lift a finger to help if/ and when you run into any trouble. Honestly I think a lot of web hosts run a model that basically says that there are so many fish in the sea if we treat our customers like crap there will always be new customers to replace them….if of course they actually change providers because as most bloggers will tell you, transferring hosts is never an easy thing (and its taken me 3 years to get to the stage that with CPanel, phpmyadmin and ftp I’d regard myself as pretty proficient at it). I also thought once I co-founded b5media that working with people like Jeremy Wright would make a difference here….it didn’t, even with Jeremy’s superior experience we managed to get totally screwed over by The Planet.

I’m always hesitant to recommend hosts to people given they always come back to bite me at a later date, but at the moment I’m using Dreamhost for my personal stuff on a shared server, and b5media is using dedicated servers from webnx, and so far they’ve both been absolutely brilliant.

Legal threats and spammers
I’ve had plenty of these over 3 years, although most have occurred in the last 12 months. Comment spam and spam blogs are a blight on the blogosphere, and yet the people who pedal software to do this, or partake in it themselves deserve to be called out. The legal threat tally would be about 15 for memory, but the only time I became a little bit scared was when I took on the famed blackhat SEO DaveN, who had boasted about his comment spamming techniques to a tech journal, and got rewarded with a private tour of the Googleplex from Matt Cutts. When I realised that what he could do to The Blog Herald and other sites I owned…..we’ll suffice to say I’ve never mentioned him again since before this post.

The People
I could continue writing this post all day, however I’ll finish it before it gets too long by saying the best thing about having established, owned and written at The Blog Herald is the amazing variety of people I’ve gotten to know in varying degrees through this blog, and from all over the world. You know who you are :-) My life is so much more richer today (personally) because of it.

Finally though I’ve know I’ve missed a lot of things, The Blog Herald Christmas Awards, 100 blogs in 100 days, the old link swaps, the Blog Herald Blog Count and Blog Network lists….and I’ll probably think of more in the next couple of days. It’s all been a wonderful adventure.

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