Questions at WordCamp: Is it Hard for You to Keep Blogging?

Last year, while at WordCamp, I was posting live coverage of the event for the Blog Herald. This year, I’m here representing b5media along with most of the tech team and Jeremy Wright, our CEO. Good times.

I figured I’d post about WordCamp again but I just don’t find any inspiration in giving you the blow by blow. I’m guessing you really don’t care, right? If you’re not here, you probably won’t really catch the groove.

Instead, I will post questions people have asked me while chatting here at WordCamp. If you are here, please say hi and feel free to ask a question. I may answer it here on the blog.

Q: Do you find it difficult to find inspiration to write posts regularly?

When I first got started blogging, I fell prey to the prison that most bloggers do. That prison is that you must produce content to stay relevant, have traffic and move up in the rankings. In other words, you must produce if you’re going to be successful.

While this is true to a degree, it really is something that bloggers as a whole have to get away from. In the past few weeks, I can count on one hand how many posts I’ve written. In that time, my RSS subscription numbers have jumped from approximately 680 subscribers to 750. Go figure. Why?

I boil this down to a number of factors that I have very explicitly tried to do here at Technosailor.

  1. Produce great content optimized for search engines. Recognizing that many people come from Google, I’ve made a point to think proactively about what kind of searches I’d like to have drive traffic to posts and then making sure I follow good practices in ensuring my posts ranks well. This means using keywords, great markup, etc. While this post won’t address SEO for blogs, you can find lots of great advice from folks like Aaron Wall and the people over at SEOMoz.
  2. Produce timeless content. This is a problem for newsy blogs or political blogs or current events blogs of any time. At Technosailor, I’ve spent more time trying to create content that, despite a timestamp, is relevant 3 years from now as it is today.
  3. Cultivating RSS subscribers. With premium content recently – that is, content that I only offer to my feed subscribers – and otther techniques, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cultivate RSS subscriptions. RSS subscribers never have to deal with the frustration of clicking over to a site and being disappointed when no new content is available. It’s somewhat like watching paint dry. Why watch? Just get the content when it becomes available automatically. RSS subscribers get the benefit of carrying on doing their own thing and getting the content whenever I decide to write. It’s so much more low maintenance.

These are just three techniques I’ve used to build traffic without having to feel the chains that hinder bloggers. Bloggers feel like they have to keep producing, and producing, and producing. That’s a good way to get blogger burnout. If great content is produced that is optimized for search engines, timeless and you move your readers away from the constraints of “checking out your site” and instead consuming your content via RSS or newsletters, you’ll find a tremendous amount of freedom from the constraints of being a content production slave.

Sink or Swim: Six Companies that Might Make It

This past Friday, I had the privilege of being on a “Future of the Web” panel at New Media Nouveaux outside of Washington, D.C. It was a lot of fun and certainly a necessary kind of event if the capital region is going to make any real strides in the area of social media.

One of the questions that was asked revolved around which companies or individuals were important to watch for the future. I shaped my answer in a Sink or Swim kind of mode. Companies who would sink into obscurity or make it in an industry that has as many newcomers, it seems, as we had in the late 90s and few are actually making it to an exit or IPO.

So as a recap and an elaboration, let me outline three companies that will sink and three that will swim.

Yahoo – Sink
A couple of weeks ago, I had several stories about Yahoo! and the woes they were encountering. In that time, their CEO has left, they have closed several of their businesses including Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Personals. This is more indication of what is to come as they slim down to an acquirable state. Yahoos failure was not in vision, but in execution. Many missteps along the road took them out of the lead position to upstart Google, and their seemingly blind navigation through the internet world post-1998 just makes me think they aren’t going anywhere but straight to the acquisition bin.

Twitter – Swim
Twitter is only a couple, six months old. They are not a big company and they may not have a business plan. However, their amazing ability to lure new users to the world of micro-content is nothing short of amazing. Twitter’s base principle “What am I doing now?” seems shallow in its focus, however look deeper and you’ll find a whole new world of connectivity between blog posts. Before blogs, we had magazines and newspapers and you had to wait until the next day to find out what someone would write – and then those someones were”qualified” journalists. Then there was blogging which gave the average person the opportunity to write a couple times of day. Twitter takes that conversation into an even more granular state of the “in between” times. Half global instant message, half blog, half forum, half marketing platform – Twitter has the bases covered. Despite upstart competitors like Pownce and Jaiku, none have the weird charm that Twitter does.

Plus, Twitter takes the internet into untethered space allowing folks to use the service via text message. That is very Web 3.0.

MySpace – Sink
No need to rehash this, Myspace is dead.

Facebook – Swim
An open platform, an open motif for all kinds of guerrilla and viral marketing, Facebook will not only become the destination for friends and colleagues – it will become the platform of choice for marketing.

Mahalo – Sink
Something about “human powered search” doesn’t sit right with me. It seems old and antiquated. It seems irrelevant. It seems like too big of a task to have relevancy in. Why should Mahalo work? If it does, it will only because Jason Calacanis is a very smart man. Beyond that, the entire concept is crazy.

ConceptShare – Swim
My good friends up in the great white north, ConceptShare, are definite swimmers. Scott Brooks called me this morning to thank me for mentioning them. Quite unusual to get a call thanking someone for a mention, but that demonstrates how smart these guys are.

ConceptShare takes the idea that collaborative design is tricky over email with comments and feedback sometimes having questionable results in the end product, and mashes the collaborative process into a single web application. With ConceptShare, a designer, photographer or videographer can upload “concepts” to the application, and contributors can comment with drag and drop comment threads linked to portions of the piece. This is particularly interesting in video where 2:35 seconds into the video, there is a color shift that seems unnatural and a contributor thinks that the video producer should edit that one 10 second section. See the power?

ConceptShare has been used by b5media, in full disclosure, for several of our design projects including our version 2 template that is deployed across the network. Very powerful. These guys laughed at me when I predicted they would be acquired by Google – but I think it’s coming.

Alternatives to Technorati

I’m sitting in a session here at New Media Nouveaux which is geared toward PR types and marketers. A statement is made by one panelist that using blogs effectively is about knowing what people are talking about and suggests Technorati as the source of market research.

While Technorati is A source, a better idea would be using Google Alerts or Google Blog Search. These really have become key for me in the past year as I’ve moved away from favoring Technorati. Many niches also have sites devoted to “following the conversation”. For technology bloggers, there is Techmeme and it’s sister site for politics, Memeorandum. Tailrank attempts to track the “long tail” of conversation on many topics including entertainment.

There’s many ways to track conversation. My advice to marketers is to not be an outsider. When you join the conversation, the conversation will develop in front of your eyes. You’ll spend far less time doing “market research” and far more time cultivating relationships with your consumers and partners.