06
Apr
09

If your blog died today… what would it be remembered for?

Darren Rowse
Image by BenSpark via Flickr

Over at ProBlogger.net, Darren Rowse’s “31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge” starts today.  It has been extremely successful in the past couple of years he has done the Challenge which lasts 31 days and almost guarantees improvements in the creative content of your blog if you follow through with the Challenge.  It is so popular among bloggers not only because it apparently really helps bloggers to focus on and achieve their blog goals but because Darren has earned a reputation worldwide for being a bit of a “blog guru” — he has a knack for focusing on the problems that plague us all and presenting exercises that are at once challenging and gratifying (not to mention unique).

For example, one of his most popular blog exercises called “If your blog died today… what would it be remembered for?”  On the surface, it sounds horribly morose but he actually presents the following challenge that forces you to really ask yourself what you want out of your blog, how you’d like it to be perceived and the impact you think it will make versus the impact it is actually making in people’s lives.

In the post, he asks Bloggers to:

Project yourself forward 10 years, imagine that at that point you decide to end your blog having achieved everything that you want to achieve with it and write a short obituary about your blog as you’d like other people to have seen it to that point.  Keep in mind that your blog has been as successful as it can be and you’re ending it at the peak of its game.

The thought of that alone is a bit overwhelming but extremely thought-provoking.  It is also the tip of the iceberg as Darren presents a set of questions (a road map) to help us through the exercise:

  • What do you want people to say about your blog?
  • How do you hope it will have been perceived?
  • What will people miss about it the most?
  • What ground has it broken?
  • What has it achieved?
  • How has it helped people?

This is a timed exercise.  He gives us 10 minutes to answer the above questions and write our Blog Obituary.  It seems like a woefully inadequate amount of time but, then, if you can’t say what your blog is and how you want it to impact the world in ten minutes, then that would indicate a huge problem that needs to be worked through.

That was only the first part of the exercise.  The second part really brings the first part home:

Write an obituary for your blog as it stands TODAY.  Write an obituary for your blog as you think others see it now.

  • What would they say about it?
  • What would people miss about it?
  • What has it achieved?
  • How has it fulfilled a need or service in people’s lives.
  • What ground has it broken?

I have to admit that, for me personally, this exercise is not easy at all.  I read through many of the Comments to his post (77 total) and was not surprised to see others had struggled mightily as well.  It is so easy to open a blog account with a blogging service (as easy as it is to open a box of cereal) that I believe people very seldom put this much thought into what they really want to say with their blogs.  But if we did this work first, imagine how much better our blogs would be!

I’m going to do this exercise tonight.  You can read the original “Blog Obituary” post here.  Is this something that you think would help you?

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31
Mar
09

My Latest Blog Crush

cupid

Yes, it is wholly ridiculous to have a crush on anything other than a human being or a pet.  But blogs… blogs are special.  At their best, they not only inform but they also validate your cause, help you take that next step in your journey and (on that rare and lovely occasion) lead you down an unexpected but exciting new path of thought, discussion or action.

I love finding new blogs that interest me that I can share with other people.  I found two blogs (about blogging) that I think are great tools for anyone with blogs (and let’s face it, there are probably thousands of blogs online proclaiming to be essential help for bloggers).

Rather than run down a list of reasons why I like these two blogs, I’d love to hear if you find them helpfull and bookmark-worthy yourself!

The first blog is BlogPerfume.com. Launched in 2007, Blog Perfume mantra is simple and, like good perfume, very alluring:

We pick the best WordPress themes, plugins and blogging resources.

We love and enjoy blogging as much as you do. We would like to collect all the useful WordPress themes, plugins, and blogging resources for pro-bloggers. Makes Bloggers life a lot easier.

How can you not love that?  The content, the writing and the design of the site are just as clean, straightforward and alluring.

blog-perfume

The second blog is a dedicated to social media and is called, aptly enough, SocializedPR.com.  Socialized PR is an odd little blog that seems to have a lot to say (and, so far, I’m listening).  I also don’t want to post a picture of the blog as it will give away its unique design as well.  That is all I’m going to say about that (just check it out for yourself).

Thoughts?


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31
Mar
09

Over 6,500 Bloggers Register for “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” (start date delayed!)

blogging-challenge1

Hey everyone!  Hope your week is off to a great start.

Over 6,500 bloggers have registered for Darren Rowse‘s free online course (and personal growth challenge) “31 Days to Build a Better Blog” at ProBlogger.net (a practical daily exercise that will be administered over 31 days with the goal of helping you to improve the creative content of your blog)!

This is the third year Darren Rowse (known as a blog guru)  is doing his wildly popular blogger challenge and, by far, this is the biggest blogger registration he’s had to date (which should tell us all a lot about the validity of his excercises in helping bloggers improve their craft and the increased desire of people to polish their online brand).

So far, five people from Blog Academy are partaking in the challenge (including Dean Meyers, Kelly Fraser, Sarah Cooley, Ravi Gupta and, of course, yours truly!).  It’s going to be great to hear how everyone’s blogs progress.

For those of you who are still contemplating registering, there are a few important updates I wanted to share with you.

  • DELAYED ONE WEEK – The initial start-date was April 1st (this Wednesday).  However, as Darren Rowse explains on his blog, he will be launching 31 Days to Build a Better Blog on April 6th instead.  That gives us all one additional week of preparation!
  • This time around, Darren is adding a Special Forum on his site solely for those who register for the challenge which will allow us all to share our experiences and get helpful tips as well as meet other bloggers (there are over 6,500 in the challenge!).
  • You must register for the challenge here in order to participate (submit your name and a valid email address — the daily instructions will be sent via email).  Registration and participation are free.

If you are planning to participate, drop me an email and let me know.

If you don’t have a blog yet and want to participate, get a new blog account at WordPress.com (free) and give yourself this week to familiarize yourself with the various technical elements of WordPress.com (posting content, the dashboard, etc.).  If you’re not sure how to open a WordPress.com account (or how to manage the WordPress dashboard once you get an account), take a look at these video tutorials I posted on our blog.

Good luck!

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23
Mar
09

Catching Up with Blog Academy Members Blogs

Hi everyone!   I hope everyone is doing and well and that all of your blogging dreams are coming to fruition! A few of our members have actually started their blogs and are well underway to being blogging badasses.  Here is an update:

Constantine Markides took the big leap and bought a hosting plan at GoDaddy.com and migrated his extensive library of essays from his now defunct blog at WordPress.com to his new and improved, self-hosted, blog Fourth Night at WordPress.org. Now he is literally the master of his domain! The blog looks great and his essays are so thought-provoking and entertaining (for example, his post called The One Man Tent will grip you like a good novel – it’s refreshing to see this kind of quality writing on a blog!).  Constantine describes his professional skills in the “About” page as “Archaeological proficiency in the archaic newspaper and literary practices of late-twentieth century antiquity” (in other words, a journalist). With his creative fiction, photos (that he’s takes himself) and a fierce eye for beauty (I’ve seen his photos, he does have an eye for beauty) I honestly can’t wait to see his blog develop as time marches on.  You can find his blog here.  It’s an indulgence.

Steve Alleyne took the blogger plunge and launched his self-hosted blog at StevenAllyene.com on WordPress.org.  He uploaded his first blog post Dating on the north side of 40 following a very long-term relationship which is very funny and heartfelt (I mentioned in our first meeting how much I enjoy Steve’s writing – you will too – trust me!).  He describes himself in the following way on his “About Steve” page:  “I’m not quite old yet not as young as I used to be. However, I AM short. I’m dealing with it. [Shrug]” (that’s just the tip of Steve’s iceberg)

Steve shared with everyone in our first meetup that he had procrastinated with launching his blog for a couple of months and, now, he has a blog and a couple of posts up. Steve is a rock star. He admitted how tough it was (like giving birth) but he worked through it and gave his great writing a place to call blog-home.  You can find bits of Steve’s wisdom and humor on his blog at here.  Steve will be doing a guest post for the New York Blog Academy blog about his experience launching his site in the coming week!

Hermann Mazard just launched his blog (Thoughts of a Confused Enthusiast) this past weekend. Hermann has a lot to get off of his chest about the condition of America, how our government is handling our economic crisis and whether we can or will ever recover. He doesn’t mince words and thank god for that. His honestly and bluntness are refreshing and absolutely necessary (medicine isn’t supposed to taste good and sweet!).  Being a college professor, Hermann is very skilled at using the power of the pen to make a point that (though it may be sharp and cutting) is always wrapped in a well-researched, thoughtful essay. His very first post is Why Good Mortgages Goes Bad (warning: he spares no one (dead or alive) in this analysis of what really led to America’s the mortgage crisis and who is to blame). Great read and food for thought!

Jade Dressler (PR expert) sent me her two blogs and I’m so glad she did! The first blog (Jade Dressler) is her perspective on culture and the arts and what a truly unique perspective it is (I kid you not – and I worked in arts and entertainment!). It isn’t often that a blog can get you to see the ordinary in our surroundings in an extraordinary way (Jade does this with such ease I’m almost jealous!).  Her second blog (ITI Phone Home) is a hysterical and bizarre look at pop culture and celebrity from the perspective of someone who clearly is an alien in this strange land. In her “About Me” page she says of herself, unapologetically, “I know what I am and I’ve decided to out myself.”  Thank goodness.  Just blog every minute of it for us please.   Thank you.  Her latest post is “I HEART MAN BOOBS” and it is an ode to man-mammary that will crack you up!

Look for blogs soon from the delightful John Windsor-Cunningham who is in the process of launching his blog which will be a web video blog that will take a weekly comedic look at USA from a Brit p.o.v. (LOVE IT!!)

Also launching soon is Anat Fanti. As she explained in our first meetup, Anat is interested in helping people who are in dark and difficult situations (during these economically dire times) find the light in their situation and move towards it.  Indeed, Anat is a beautiful light herself who inspires people every day in ordinary conversation. One could only imagine how awesome and inspirational her blog is going to be!

As soon as John and Anat give me the word, I’ll share their blogs with all of you! Until then, let’s send them much support and positive blogging vibes! : )

CONGRATULATIONS to our members who launched blogs this past week.  Rock stars.  Each of you!

congratulations

Please check out their blogs, subscribe to them and let them know what you think of their writing in the Comments sections of their blogs.

Blogging is not a destination — it’s a journey.

Warmth and good cheer,

Charlie : )
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23
Mar
09

A Deceased Soldier Blogs His Goodbye

andrew-olmsted

It would be, without a doubt, the hardest blog post that anyone would have to write in their entire lives.  It makes our struggles to blog about the mundane things in our lives (while they, too, have their special meaning and purpose in life) seem small and irrelevant in comparison.

Major Andrew Olmstead began blogging after his unit was sent to Iraq to help train the Iraqi Army.  His writings were posted at four blogs:

(1) AndrewOlmstead.com (2) Obsidian Wings (3) Winds of Change and (4) his local newspaper The Rocky Mountain News (Colorado Springs) where he blogged a column called From the Front Lines (his perspective from the front lines in Iraq).

He also blogged constantly throughout his service in Iraq (no matter what the circumstances).  He outlines eloquently his reasons for blogging on the “About Me” section of his personal blog.  I’ve reposted it below:

This is a vanity site that gives me the opportunity to comment on current events, or anything that catches my eye. What I post here is intended to put my thoughts on particular issues up for discussion; I do not pretend to be infallible or anything close to that. When I post something, it is what I believe, but it may be based on inaccurate information or faulty analysis. Where that occurs, I look to my readers to help me find the facts and improve my analytical abilities. As this is a vanity site, I have no regular publication schedule, (although I generally post daily), nor do I receive any editorial guidance. But thanks to the magic of the Internet and the kind souls who’ve gone to the trouble of linking here it does provide me the opportunity to contribute in some small manner to the philosophical and political questions of the day.

Major Olmstead took the time to write what would be the last blog post he would ever write in his life — his final thoughts about his life, people, love and… yes, the war.  He then instructed a friend to upload it to his blog (AndrewOlmstead.com) if he were killed in combat in Iraq.

On January 3rd, 2008, Major Andrew Olmstead was killed in an enemy ambush in Iraq.  His final post was uploaded to his site shortly thereafter.  I won’t say anything about the post.  I believe that, if you choose to read it, you will certainly come to your own conclusions (which I welcome discussions on).  I will say that Major Olmstead’s selfless service to his country and people reminds me that there are no excuses for not doing what you really want to do in life (even blogging).

Major Andrew Olmstead’s Final Blog Post to the world can be found here.

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23
Mar
09

Jobs for Bloggers

help-wanted3

It may not be a glamorous job, and you won’t retire wealthy with the meager salaries bloggers get paid, but if you love the craft and want to expand your blogging horizons, you might want to look into getting a full or part-time gig as a blogger (paid).  Whatever your interests are, there are blogs out there looking for people to write on the subject from their unique perspective.  Here’s one fact that gets overlooked about online content: there actually ISN’T ENOUGH OF IT (not quality content that is on par with journalists at newspapers).  That’s where YOU come in.

For those bloggers who find creating content on a regular basis to be difficult, you might want to try writing for a blog that features content you are interested in.  By working as a professional blogger (even just part time) you’ll be creating multiple opportunities for yourself and your brand including:

  • exercising your writing muscle and disciplining yourself to write regularly (especially when having to answer to a supervisor for your content);
  • you’ll get editorial feedback on your writing which will improve your craft and help you to define your voice;
  • building your blogging portfolio with diverse content;
  • building a reputation for yourself as a serious blogger in the industry (thereby making you an “expert”);
  • building an audience for your personal blog (which would be in your bio on any site you decided to work for);
  • establishing new contacts with people who can help you grow your personal blog; and
  • extra cash in your pocket.

It might be challenging to find the time to do it all (even just part time) but think of it as blogging boot camp with many benefits (including a pay check).  Worth taking a look!

I found a couple of great, reliable and respected online sources for bloggers looking for employment blogging for sites.  The first bogger job board is ProBlogger.net.  This job board is clean and too-the-point (which I would expect from ProBlogger – the founder of this site, Darren Rowse, has one of the most popular and authoritative sites about blogging online – marketing genius).  Here is a clip of their job board:

problogger-job-site

Each listing on the board has the date of the entry, the specifics of the position (i.e., “Music Gadgets Blogger Wanted”) and the blog category (corporate blog, blog network, etc.).  The individual posts are very detailed and leaves nothing to the imagination.  One job post for a “TV Show Blogger” for Hero World Media reads:

TV SHOW BLOGGER NEEDED

We are looking for a freelance writer/blogger that can generate, on average, 10 articles per week (200-450 words each)

The subject matter is television related. You must be knowledgeable about popular TV shows such as Lost, Heroes, Desperate Housewives, 24 etc, and current TV show news.

COMPENSATION:
You will be an independent contractor and initially you will be paid on a per published post basis (ranges from US $3 to US $6). The basic compensation level will based on your experience and the type of content you generate (micro posts vs. standard articles vs. features).

REQUIRMENTS:

* Be able to commit to 10 articles per week
* Be creative, critical, and articulate
* Have strong research/analysis skills. Check facts well.
* Be familiar with writing for the web and for impatient online audiences.
* Be familiar with using WordPress.
* Must be located in the US or Canada.

WRITING TOPICS:
You should be comfortable with writing on a variety of tv related topics.

ARTICLE REQUIREMENTS:
* The article must be posted in WordPress.
* Include at least one image in each article.
* Intelligent linking of post content to related subject matter and/or to related posts in the same blog
* Assign one primary and a few sub-categories to each post
* Tag all posts

How to apply

Please email samples of your work to kvnfleming(at)gmail.com

Posted on: 03/16

Darren Rowse crosses out jobs that have been filled so anything that is on this job board is an OPEN POSITION unless noted otherwise (including the above position!).  You can find ProBlogger’s job board here.

The second blogger job site that I found to be very well managed with interesting blogging jobs that are updated regularly is BloggerJobs.biz.

bloggerjobs-biz-siteIt describes itself as being “The inside track to a blogging career“.  Unlike ProBlogger (which is a site about blogging in general that features a job board).  BloggerJobs.biz dedicated entirely to the search for blogging jobs.  It is also, appropriately, a blog about blog jobs.  So while you’ll definitely find job listings on the site, it contains much more to support bloggers looking to sustain careers as professional bloggers including directing them to other resources, offering great tips and being an open forum for discussion on blogging assignments.  To underscore my point, here is a list of the categories on the site:

Pretty extensive and varied!  What I like about this site is that, true to blog form, their job posts are not listed with job requirements being itemized like a grocery list.  Instead, a detailed post is done for each job in a more conversational tone.  They also give a bit more background info on the company, location, etc.  For example:

Two Blogging jobs from Splashpress Job Boards

One opening for a Metal/Rock outfit was posted by PureGrainAudio.com, which is an established online magazine who needs bloggers/writers for expansion. They need self-motivated people who are die hard metal/rock fans who can work independently posting on; news, interviews(formal and informal ones), album reviews plus a whole lot more. Current ranks are from Canada and the US and expansion to obtaining writers from overseas and anywhere else as a matter of fact. They need people who can properly manage time that would allow regular contributions, and also contribute to the growth of the site as well with suggestions and proper work ethics.

Definitely worth the click!  You never know what you’ll find and what kind of opportunities will come out of opening yourself up to working for and with other blogs!  No blogger is an island (okay, maybe a few are but that doesn’t mean you have to be).

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23
Mar
09

Your Blog – How to make a great first impression

First impressions are crucial

Good first impressions are crucial

We all know that first impressions are short and precious.  We make up our minds about another person within seconds of meeting them and, if the impression on our brains tells us the person is a schmuck, they may never recover from our judgement or be given a second chance.

The same holds true for blog posts (even more so actually, since we are far quicker to click away from a blog know there are no consequences for the rejection than we are to turn away from someone in person).

Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net has reposted one of his most popular blog posts where he offers great tips on how to make a great first impression on people who are visiting our blog for the very first time.  Here is the original video clip:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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22
Mar
09

Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Blog

Blogging Readiness
Image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr

We all have our reasons for doing it (or wanting to do it).  But very seldom do we conciously think about why we blog.  And for those people who have never blogged and have no desire to do so the question is, “Why should I blog?”

According to Technorati‘s State of the Blogosphere 2008 (an annual report on the changing landscape of blogging) where they interviewed over 1,000 bloggers on why they blog, the main reason most people blog is as a form of self-expression and to share information, followed by networking and getting a foot in the door in traditional old media.  Other reasons people blog included:

  • activism
  • book publicity
  • personal satisfaction
  • self-promotion
  • share my passion
  • to become known as an expert and
  • “to bake half-baked ideas

Here are the numbers from Technorati’s research reflecting why bloggers said they blog:

Why Do You Blog?

why-do-you-blog-chart1

Reading The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, I came across their Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Blog:

To Blog or Not to Blog:  Top Ten Reasons Why You Should

  1. To build a reputation as a wise, thoughtful expert on family values.
  2. To destroy someone else’s reputation as a wise, thoughtful expert on family values with one drunken photo from the all-nude male caberet.
  3. To entertain the fantasy that a baby-model scout is looking at photos of your child in a too-cute Burberry two-piece toddler swimsuit ($55).
  4. Pure exhibitionism.
  5. To vent about your halitosis-plagued boss and boneheaded corporate policies.
  6. To establish cred for a new career after being fired by your halitosis-plagued boss and bone-headed HR minions.
  7. To let the world know that your babysitter is trying to extort $1.5 million from you.
  8. To stop a rumor that you sexually harassed said babysitter.
  9. Grandma gently suggests that you share your rants about (pick one) the last election, Mumia Abu-Jamal, the need for a border fense, or the “Klintoons” with someone other than her.
  10. For the opportunity to make an additional $1.65 per week through Google AdWords or the Amazon Associates program.

Did Technorati or Huffington Post miss anything?  Do tell.
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20
Mar
09

Recession Breeds New Bloggers on a Mission

recession-bloggers

It stands to reason that during times of upheavel, voices that would ordinarily be silent in more steady times tend to rise above the noise or (at the very least) find a way to be heard amidst the noise.

I was inspired to create New York Blog Academy because of my deep belief that blogging (thanks to a crippling recession that is pushing people to the brink of their desperation and frustrations) will enter a new era (like every other sector of American life struggling to define or redefine itself).

What does that mean?  What we took for granted and merely fiddled with in the past with blogging, we will now not only appreciate, but find a way to use to lift ourselves (and each other) out of this muck.

CNN, the NY Times and other major media outlets have begun reporting on the new crop of blogging voices borne out of the pain of this recession.  These are people who have never had a blog before but who (for the first time ever) feel compelled to express their struggle and to help other people through their struggle.  Having never had a blog myself until recently, I can honestly say that I can relate and that I, too, am a blogging product of the times.

Some of these new bloggers are documenting the recession news, while others are using their new blogs to launch companies as first-time entrepreneurs (after being laid off from corporate jobs) or to find new work.

Here are a few of these new blog-voices as noted in CNN and the NY Times articles:

  • The Daily Bail — “Bailout News, Opinion & Analysis. A Path to Federal Bankruptcy.”
  • Recession Wire — Capturing the stories and improving the lives of urban professionals who (like the three women who founded the blog) are getting effed by the economy.
  • Pink Slips are the New Black — the founders of this blog state on their site:  “We’re angry.  We’re frustrated.  We’re unemployed…  Like you.  There is strength in numbers.  Join us.”
  • Feeling Up in Down Times — Psychologist Marlin S. Potash created this blog to “bring psychology research and clinical experience to you… and to help you to deal with the shifting ground of what to count on”
  • Timely Demise — “Tracking the changing retail landscape in today’s economic environment.”
  • Laid Off Dad — One laid off dad’s stories of life in the big city… unemployed.

Although these blogs may be temporary (because they focus on a narrow, hopefully short-term, topic — the recession) they have brought each of the founders (new bloggers) recognition and an audience they would not have had otherwise.  They grabbed the blogging bull by the horns and met a need head on (the need for people to have somewhere to go to vent about these troubling times, to be encouraged, and maybe even find an opportunity).

I look forward to seeing the blogs our members produce!

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19
Mar
09

Dean Meyers Presentation on Blogging

Moo cards for blogging workshop
Image by Mexicanwave via Flickr

We were very lucky to have Dean Meyers (visual problem solver) come speak with us at the last Meetup on March 14th.  He shared a wealth of knowledge and really illuminating some things about blogging that stumps most people!

Dean has generously forwarded me his slideshare presentation from our meetup for you review.  While you’re at it, take a look at Deans post from earlier today on how to overcome blogger‘s (writer’s) block.

You can follow Dean on Twitter at @deanmeistr.  His website is http://www.deanmeyers.net/

Enjoy!


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Blog Academy Slideshare“, posted with vodpod

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18
Mar
09

I didn’t blog today because…

BlogComics.net

BlogComics.net

Blogger’s block is something everyone faces from time to time. Even the most proficient and prolific bloggers complain they run dry of topics and inspiration on occasion. But they keep at it, and they notice that the blocks come and go, but constancy makes for consistency of keeping their blogs alive.

Here are some quick ideas to keep you in the mood, and some things to consider that may get you over the hump of being blocked:

Read other blogs. Google the topics that interest you. Find blogs that are radically different from your opinion or belief system. The mental stretch may spark something, and get you ready to fire off a heated comment on other’s blogs. Do so, and then write a blog post about it on yours as well.

Do you have Evernote? Jott? Do you mark favorite tweets on Twitter to go back to later so you won’t forget them? Writers routinely keep notebooks of ideas, these are just 2.0 ways to keep notes for later…especially useful if you think the well has gone dry.

A picture is worth..well, a blog post, at the very least. Do you take pics with your iPhone of things that atract your eye, make you laugh, make you cry? Do you sketch, doodle, draw on a note pad, or the back of business cards? Have a flickr account? Visuals will create strong impressions, both on you and readers. Load them onto the blog and write about it. Or don’t, and let the picture tell its own story.

Use your Seinfeld brain. Jerry Seinfeld’s television show was considered brilliantly funny, yet was a show about…NOTHING. The cast of characters became quirkier the more we looked at them, but at first glance seemed very commonplace. How about looking at what you’ve written before? Go back to an old posting, one that really makes you proud. Maybe you can rewrite it, six months later, with a different point of view. Don’t be afraid to revisit old topics, your audience will forgive you. You might actually develop much deeper content with a series of posts that are linked together through a theme or subject.

Prayer and meditation are fine things to do. After you have done that for a while, it’s time to just bite the bullet and write. But just dip your toes in the water. Write a half dozen post titles, and don’t plan on using any of them. Make a bulletpoint list of 7 things your bloggers should know. Don’t explain it, just make the list. Write a thank you note to another blogger who inspires you (you need not send it, but we all can use support). The act of writing will beget more writing. That’s usually the effect. If not, you have permission to go back to square one, reading, observing, enjoying a good laugh or fuming over an opposing position. Take heart that you’ll get past the block, and with repetition, the exercise will make you a stronger blogger each time you do.
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17
Mar
09

WordPress Tutorials

wordpress-tutorials

With all of the discussion about whether to use WordPress.com or to host your own blog with WordPress.org, I thought that (whatever your decision) it might be helpful to have a video demonstration of how to use both.

Here are a few presentations that I hope inspires you to start using the platform that’s best for you (we’ll talk about other blogging platforms following WordPress).

Starting a WordPress Blog

Vodpod videos no longer available.

WordPress Dashboard & Themes

Vodpod videos no longer available.

How To Setup a WordPress.org Blog on GoDaddy

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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17
Mar
09

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org

confusion-computer

There is always confusion for beginner bloggers over the differences betweeen Worpress.com and WordPress.org.  I was also confused when I turned to WordPress as my blog platform of choice.

There is a lot of information online about the differences between Worpress.com and WordPress.org with various opinions about which one you should use.  In almost all cases, the author of an article will suggest that your usage of either platform depends entirely on the kind of blog you will have (personal journal or business blog), your monetary restrictions and monetary goals (advertising on your blog) and your technical expertise.

Below, I’ve listed some of the basic and most relevant differences between both platforms from About.com.  But first, here is the description of the differences between Worpress.com and WordPress.org posted on the Support section of WordPress.com website:

WordPress.com is a hosted blog service. You do not have to download software, pay for hosting or manage a web server. WordPress.com does not permit uploading themes or plugins. WordPress.org is free software. You can install themes and plugins, run ads, and edit the database.

One of the things that is omitted here (and in their more detailed explanation of the differences between both platforms listed here) is something that I believe should be seriously considered when making a decision to use either platform:

WordPress.com is free BUT any content you create on their site legally belongs to them.  In other words, your blog (the name, the content, photos you upload, etc.) is the property of WordPress.com to do with what they wish.  That means if you are in violation of their rules for any reason (i.e., monetizing through Google Adsense which they do not allow), they can delete your account immediately and there is nothing you can do about it.  They can also delete your account for no apparent reason at all and you would have no recourse.  You are on their servers and have agreed to allow them to aggregate and manage your content at a cost to them.  When you create your account, you sign away any right to the content.

WordPress.org is free software but you will need to host it on your own server through a third-party hosting platform (i.e., GoDaddy, Hostgator, LunarPages, etc.) for a fee (starting, on average, at $7 per month) and purchase a domain name (approximately $7 per year) that will be associated with your blog.  While you pay a fee for these services (and a nominal one at that) and you will need to upload the WordPress.org software to your server (which requires a bit of effort – but very little), the important thing to know is that with WordPress.org, because you are hosting your own blog on a contracted/paid for third-party service, you own your blog and all of its content.

So, to me, the question is not: which service is easier to use?  Rather:  Am I creating a blog for business reasons or merely as a journal of my thoughts for myself, friends and family?  Do I mind not owning my content?  I believe that if this is the first of the many questions you have to ask yourself about blogging, then (once you answer it) the other questions will practically answer themselves.

If you are blogging to (1) create a brand for yourself or your business as an expert or voice of recognition in your field; (2) monetize your content (which you can’t do on WordPress.com); or to (3) buil a huge following and grow your blog content-wise and visually with your audience, then consider hosting your own blog with Worpress.org.  The last thing you would want as a business person (or professional blogger) is for anyone other than yourself to own your blog content.

Here are more differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org to consider that I am posting from an article on the topic at About.com:

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between WordPress.org and WordPress.com:

Following are some factors you may want to consider before you decide to start your blog on a paid host with WordPress.org or WordPress.com (free):

  • Monetization and Advertisements: WordPress.com does not allow you to include advertisements of any kind.
  • Customization: WordPress.com provides a limited amount of space and customization options (although enough for most beginner bloggers).
  • Knowledge: WordPress.org requires more technical knowledge than WordPress.com.
  • Future Requirements: If your blog becomes popular, switching to WordPress.org requires moving your blog and obtaining a new domain name and URL address.

What Features Does WordPress Offer Bloggers?:

WordPress provides a simple interface to allow even the most technically-challenged people to start blogs. The software includes a variety of features including:

  • Custom themes
  • Integrated stats tracker
  • Spam protection
  • Auto-save
  • Spell check
  • Tagging
  • Automatic ping
  • Various sidebar widgets
  • Multiple authors
  • Plug-ins
  • Support
  • WordPress.org also allows for advertising, a custom domain, custom email addresses and more

As I mentioned at our meetup on Saturday, if your blog is on another blog platform (i.e., Blogger, Vox, etc.) or if you’ve never blogged before and need to familiarize yourself with the technical aspects of WordPress, opening a free WordPress.com account to “test the waters” is an ideal thing to do before committing to the self-hosting option.  You can create a “test” blog about any subject and then fiddle around with it to familiarize yourself with WordPress in general.

It’s a personal decision based on your needs but, ultimately, the blog you create should reflect who you are, what you have to say and be as enriching an experience as possible for your Users.  Whatever you do, don’t sit on the fence!  Choose one and go for it!

In the next post, I’ll have video tutorials on how to open a WordPress.com account and how to install a WordPress.org account on a third party server such as GoDaddy.com.

Happy blogging! : )

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12
Mar
09

Hot Blog: Running from the Camera

running-from-camera

Running from the Camera is a prime example of how you can take any subject matter or idea (no matter how seemingly inane) and turn it into an entertaining and, in this case, an odd (yet charming) blog.

A blogger by the name of Muggezifter in Rotterdam chose an awesome and intriguing topic for his blog:  himself… running away

It’s unabashedly simple bordering on rediculous.  He takes pictures of himself running away from his camera after he sets the timer and posts the photos without comment or text (except for the location of where the photo was taken).  The photos are taken in various locations throughout the Rotterdam.

Says Muggezifter of his blog:

The rules are simple:  I put the self-timer on 2 seconds, push the button and try to get as far from the camera as I can.

You would think something like this would get old quickly (how many times can you see a photo of a man running from a camera before your attention wanders elsewhere – never to return to the blog again?).

But actually, my response has been quite contrary to annoyance and boredom.  The compilation of photos of him running away from different locations, on different days, in different weather, wearing different outfits is almost poetic and artistc.

Depending on your philisophical outlook on life, the photos can either speak to the belief that we can never be truly happy all of the time because we are always running from one thing to the next or an affirmation that life is exhilirating because there is always something new to run to.  Or, it can just be a photo of some dumb guy running away from his camera.

No matter your take on it, you have to give him credit for originality (unless, of course, any of you can point out where this is being done elsewhere — in which case, do tell!).

He has a couple of other blogs as well but Running from Camera can be found here.

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10
Mar
09

Who are the Bloggers?

bloggers

I was just perusing through Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008. Every year, Technorati releases this report to document the evolving trends  and statistics in blogging as well as the impact of blogging in our lives.  Traditionally, they focus on trends and statistics but for 2008 they decided to actually survey and speak in depth with bloggers about how and why they blog.

The report is broken down into the following sections:

I was most interested in the people behind the blogs which is reported on in Who Are the Bloggers.   According to Technorati’s research, Bloggers are a diverse hodge-podge sampling of the population and more well-off financially than even I guessed:

Bloggers are not a homogeneous group, but they are an educated and affluent one: three out of four U.S. Bloggers are college graduates, and 42% have attended graduate school. They skew male, and more than half have a household income over $75,000.

They are experienced: although it has only recently exploded into the mainstream, blogging is not a new phenomenon. Half of Bloggers are on their second blog, and 59% have been blogging for more than two years.

They divide blogging into three distinct categories:

  • Personal: blog about topics of personal interest not associated with your work
  • Professional:  blog about your industry and profession but not in an official capacity for your company
  • Corporate:  blog for your company in an official capacity.

As I suspected, most Bloggers fall into the first category (personal blogging).

Four out of five bloggers are personal bloggers who blog about topics of personal interest. About half of bloggers are professional bloggers — blogging is not necessarily their full-time job, but they blog about their industry or profession in an unofficial capacity. 12% of bloggers blog in an official capacity for their company.

But things get complicated quickly because most people have many interests and goals and, therefor, their blogging reflects their multifaceted lives.  Having two or three blogs is now normal (and expected).  So, many of us fit into all three of the above categories.  Technorati illustrates this fact of the blogosphere below:

bloggers-statistics

All of this made me think about the members of New York Blog Academy and whether or not we reflect (to some degree) Technorati’s findings.

Take a look at the members in our group and read their profiles (63 members so far).  We are very diverse!  Some members are blogging for the very first time while others are, like the Technorati data above points out, are among the majority of people who have several blogs that fall into all three blogging categories.  It’s exhilerating to see so many faces from various backgrounds all coming together in the name of creative and professional expression.

This diversity in our backgrounds as well as our various blogging goals and and experience assures us that we will have enlightening and lively discussions and learn  a lot from each other.

I look forward to our first Meetup this Saturday!  To learn more about the Meetup and to RSVP, visit our events page here.

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09
Mar
09

Interview: The Blog Squad on Bizzuka Talk Show

The legendary Patsi Krakoff and Denise Wakeman of The Blog Squad were interviewed on Bizzuka’s User Friendly Thinking Show (a web radio talk show hosted by  Paul Chaney and John Munsell (CEOs of Bizzuka) that features interviews with experts and industry thought-leaders in web design, content management, Internet marketing and social media).

Krakoff and Wakeman are co-founders of Build a Better Blog (a blog that offers tips and tricks for creating an effective business blog) and The Blog Squad (their blogging consulting company).   In this interview they discuss everything from blogging for business, to using social media, to finding your audience, and getting great PR.  The interview is an hour long (an eternity on the internet) but they offer some great advice and tools for aspiring bloggers (and bloggers who have been blogging for years but are stumped as to how to continue to grow their site).

If something in this interview catches your attention and makes you consider blogging in a different way, leave a comment and let us know!

Enjoy!

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08
Mar
09

If Ralph Kramden had a Blog

Ralph Kramden (The Honeymooners)

Ralph Kramden (The Honeymooners)

Ralph Kramden (a fictionalized character on the classic television show “The Honeymooners“) drove a bus in Brooklyn for the Gotham Bus Company.  Wikipedia describes Ralph’s plight:

He is never seen driving a bus (except in publicity photos), but is shown multiple times at the bus depot. Ralph is frustrated by his lack of success, and often develops get-rich-quick schemes. Ralph is very short tempered, frequently resorting to insults and hollow threats. Well hidden beneath the many layers of bluster however, is a soft-hearted man who loves his wife and is devoted to his best pal.

Dan Christensen - Trimet Bus Driver

Dan Christensen - Bus Driver

Dan Christensen is a real human being who lives and drives a bus in Portland, Oregon, for the Trimet Bus Company.  He is a proud bus driver who documents his trials and tribulations driving a city bus for a living on his blog Trimet Confidential.  He humbly sums up his life in one neat paragraph:

Born and raised in Portland I have traveled across the world only to end up right back here in my home town.  I work as a bus driver for Trimet while I work on all sorts of creative projects. Right now I’m working on a graphic novel podcast.  I will let you know more when I know more.

I recently stumbled upon Dan’s blog quite by accident.  What a treasure it was to find!  I can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoy this blog. Granted, the design is woefully simple and not nearly as effective as it can be. It feels and looks dated (which actually contributes to its charm more than detracts from it). It’s not on WordPress (gasp!).  Nor does it have all the bells and whistles that most blogs do like RSS subscription, social media share buttons and widgets.

But what Dan’s blog does have is heart. His blog is one big heart. His love for people, his job as a bus-driver and his love of life reaches out, grabs you and hugs you. His honesty, sincerity and the simple, straightforward way he tells stories and shares observations about his life as a bus driver makes you wish you could sit with him in a bar (a pitcher of beer and two mugs between you) and shoot-the-breeze with him until the bar closes.

He is reflective and self -deprecating.  His writing is refreshingly blunt and unapologetic (even when he is, in fact, apologizing).  For example, on March 1st, Dan wrote a post called “One Bus Driver Trying to Save the World”. He begins the lengthy post with the following confession:

First let me admit that this has been the hardest post for me to write. I fear it will upset many who read it and it’s longer than [a] country music ballad video so I think too many will just stop reading. I have no idea why this article is burning in my heart all I can say is, I have to write this. It is like a block in my soul and until I express it nothing else seems able to get past.

But Dan is also funny and is just as revealing and endearing when his humorous side takes over. In his post on March 6th called “My Ten Strange Bus Driver Factoids,” Dan’s very first factoid is a darkly deranged one that caused me to laugh out loud (and almost choke on my orange juice – thanks Dan). Here he explains his first Bus Driver Factoid:

The smell of diesel exhaust is a sweet smell to me. I know my nose is crazy but it does smell sweet. I can tell a diesel truck or car or that one has been here recently just by sniffing the air. In the morning when it’s cold they fire up all the buses in the yard to get them ready for us… It’s like an apple orchard in spring to me. I know I’m sick. If I had to commit suicide my first choice would be smothered in the breast of Selma Hayek, my second choice would be diesel exhaust in my garage…if only a bus would fit.

Hysterical!  He even offers pearls of bus driver wisdom in how to cope with difficult people (and he ought to know):

Bus drivers collect flip offs like office people collect paperclips. Usually I just laugh to my self. If people on the bus see it I announce that “If we get ten of those in a day they let us go home early.” If I have to respond here is what I do. First I make the Ozzy Osborn sign with my hand. Some people call it devil horns, I think its American sign language for love. I touch my middle finger to the tip of my nose..go on do it now…you know you want to. Then I rotate my pinky up and down like some sort of crazy pump and without removing my index finger… Yes you got it. I will usually get puzzled looks of “What ever” but it almost always turns off the anger and flips the confusion switch.

Turn off the anger and flip the confusion switch – wisdom indeed.  Of course, he reveals the secrets of bus driver culture and camaraderie:

Of all the parts of my job that I love, the most top is the Bullpen. This is the big room all the drivers gather in at the start and end of their shifts. They call it the bullpen because the bull$&@# is piled high and deep here. I think every bus yard all over the world has their version of the Bullpen and our Bullpen at Powell garage in Portland Oregon is great… Without the atmosphere of Powell and the good people I work with this job would not be worth it. I think there is little worry about that ever happening.

Even Dan’s ratings system is thoughtful and unique.  You can rate each post as: “Bacon-worthy (10) — Cheese worthy (3) Beer worthy (2) or Unworthy (0)”.  How can you not love a blog that has a rating system that includes bacon, cheese and beer?!

As I mentioned earlier, the blog isn’t the most visually appealing (and there are more than a few typo and spelling errors).  But it is forgivable because the content is so good.  It has one lonely widget suspended in empty space on the left column of the site which, ordinarily, might seem puzzlingly skimpy (why only one widget when there are hundreds out there to choose from and plenty of room on your page?).  It turns out that one lone widget is powerful and effective precisely because it is the only widget on the page and its content (a slide show of photos Dan takes driving his bus including fellow bus drivers and customers) is like the cherry on a huge piece of moist double-chocolate cake.

Dan and his blog are a throwback to the birth of the blogosphere when blogs were personal diaries from ordinary folks who just wanted to share their life experiences in the purest sense (void of any desire for web fame or huge followings or SEO gold). Their online personal journals revealed just as much about us as it revealed about them and we loved them for that.

I imagine that if Ralph Kramden were of this age, he would have a blog exactly like Dan’s (except with an added section for his harebrained, get-rich-quick schemes). I hope Dan doesn’t mind the comparison, but he is a modern-day Ralph Kramden.  For all of Ralph Kramden’s faults and dreams of success that always came crashing down from the stratosphere of his hopes to the reality of his life, we always rooted for (and empathized with) him because he loved his wife, his best friend and, yes, his blue collar job.  And even though it often frustrated him, he did his job with integrity and a genuine love for the people and the responsibility bestowed upon him.

Thank you Dan Christensen. Trimet Confidential is definitely Bacon-worthy.

You can visit Dan’s blog here and follow on Twitter here.

INSPIRATIONAL TRIVIA!

The Honeymooners only ran from October 1, 1955 to September 22, 1956?  It was the #2 show in the country (behind The Perry Como Show which reigned at #1).  The Honeymooners quickly dropped to #12 and was canceled after only 39 episodes (trounced by other more popular shows including Perry Como).  Today, if you asked ask the average 20-something year old to explain what the Perry Como Show is, you’re likely to get a blank stare for an answer.  But if you ask that same 20-something about The Honeymooners the answer will likely be detailed and at least elude to them having seen it before or telling you that it’s still on the air somewhere.  To this day, over 50 years after it was canceled, the Honeymooners is still on the air and is considered one of the quintessential examples of the classic American television comedy.

Judging by their low ratings and quick demise, you would think The Honeymooners would have disappeared into the black hole of canceled and forgotten tv shows. But, quite the contrary and against all odds, it secured a prominent (and royal) place in television history.   So remember, no matter how small your blog’s audience is (compared to the “big blogs”), your unique voice can and will make a difference to those who are touched by it. Ultimately, history will be our judge (not Google Analytics).

Here is the “original” opening credits for The Honeymooners featuring a sponsored ad!  Hats off to Jackie Gleason, the rest of the cast and bus drivers all over the world!

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08
Mar
09

Reid Hoffman: Take risks now!

TechCrunch posted an awesome and inspiring interview with Reid Hoffman.  Reid is the CEO and co-founder of LinkedIn.com and an investor in web companies (over 60 companies to date including Facebook and Digg).  He is also considered the most connected person in Silicon Valley.  In other words, he is an entrepreneur guru!

Charlie Rose discusses social media, the faltering economy and how Americans can dig themselves out of this deep financial hole (among other things).  Reid believes (as do I) that this will be an incredible opportunity for ordinary Americans who have never considered being entrepreneurs (the millions of people who were laid off of comfortable corporate jobs that will no longer be there when the recession is gone) to find their true voice and solve some of our most pressing problems through entrepreneur endeavors (which is usually the case in recessions).

Here is a snippet from his interview that caught my attention.  In it Reid discusses why he believes we are all entrepreneurs and how we will dig ourselves out of this crippling recession:

So I now think part of what’s been happening over the last couple of decades is I actually think every individual is now an entrepreneur, whether they recognize it or not. Because it used to be that you got a job at one company and you were there 20, 30, 40, years. That’s been dead for decades. That’s even dying in Japan. The salary man no longer even exists in Japan.

You are the entrepreneur of your own small business. How do you get to your next gig? How do you do your career progression? All these things now fall on the individual shoulders. And so, they’re essentially an entrepreneur. Now, they’re not an entrepreneur a la, I’ll go create, you know, Google, LinkedIn, a business. They’re entrepreneurs in terms of the business of themselves and how they drive that. So it’s how they get, like, their next job opportunity, how they get a promotion. All of that stuff comes from how they manage the network around them. Which is, by the
way, what gave me the idea for LinkedIn.

But I think that one of the key things — the reason why I think risk tolerance is important is because what happens is people delude themselves they’re not taking risks. They say, oh, I’m going to get a job at, you know, Hewlett-Packard or I’m going to get a job — and that’s not risky. Well, look at current economic climates. Everything in life has some risk, and what you have to actually learn to do is how to navigate it. And people who take risk intelligently can usually actually make a lot more progress than people who don’t.

I especially agree with his statement that we are all entrepreneurs constantly selling our thoughts, our ideas and ourselves on a daily basis.  We’re all natural entrepreneurs.  We all have something to say — and there are people in this world who will listen to you.

It’s a great interview.  Enjoy! : )

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06
Mar
09

2009 Blogger Appreciation Awards

I wish I had heard about this sooner.  Cellphones.org is sponsoring their “Blogger Appreciation Contest 2009“.

Unfortunately, it’s too late to be nominated for consideration, but you can still vote for the best blogger out of the 30 finalists that were culled from 200 semi-finalists.

You’d think you would have to be a professional blogger with years of experience and site stats to match.  But the rules are very reasonable and gives new bloggers a chance to be considered for their work as well.  Cellphones.org says in the contest “Rules and Regulations”:

You must be an active blogger, on any subject. Active means you’ve been blogging for at least the last two months. Your blog can be hosted anywhere… You or someone you know needs to submit your blog.

The grand prize is free cell phone service for one year (up to $1,000) — not too shabby.  I actually like the offer to pay one of my bills for a year (considering the economy).

Here’s the list of the finalists (you can vote for your favorite here).

I really like “Geeks are Sexy”.  Which ones do you like?

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06
Mar
09

Attack of the Blogs

It’s always fascinating to look back at the way mainstream media analyzed trends before they became pop culture phenomenons.

Case in point, this cover story from Forbes magazine November 2005:

forbes-attack-of-the-blogs

The article begins with this hysterical doomsday statement:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.”

“Lynch mob… spewing lies”.  After reading the article (which continues its tirade against the early blogosphere) it became clear to me that Forbes, through this article, exhibited the same behavior that they claimed the bloggers were guilty of.  Forbes was far from being alone in this sentiment (many corporations were absolutely terrified of bloggers back then).  Of course, today, Forbes and every company vying for customer respect has a blog on their site.

Hindsight being 20/20, Forbes magazine had every reason to feel threatened by blogs.  Today, magazines and newspapers collapsing under the agonizying crush of new media that delivers immediate content as news breaks to our computers, phones, blackberry’s and every other gadget under the sun.

Old media is dying.  And blogs administered the death blow.  The cover illustration turned out to be eerily prophetic.  Blogs DO destroy brands (when those brands are no longer effective or are deceitful).  But they also BUILD brands.  Therein is the power in the punch that knocked out old media.

The rest of the article is as much of a good read for its alarmist statements rhetoric as the cover.  Read it here.

Power to the bloggers!

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