Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 30 Nov 06 13:25
I think it's worth underscoring Suzanne's observation that very few bloggers do this for money. As someone who blogs as a primary professional outlet, the only ways I could live while doing so have been, in order: * Generous support of the wife. * Foundation grant to the non-profit org built to support the blog. * Using the blog as a way to maintain visibility within the professional community, so as to generate consulting work. Very, very few blogs get enough activity to generate even poverty-level income; those that do so have visitor counts that number in the millions. If Cory manages to swing by, he might be able to say a little bit more on that count, as one of the voices on BoingBoing, which regularly ranks among the top five blogs in the world in terms of both traffic and links. Suzanne, how do you go about finding interesting new blogs?
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Thu 30 Nov 06 13:28
Assertion: the average number of readers drawn by blogs is ... one. http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=758
nape fest (zorca) Thu 30 Nov 06 14:24
> how do you go about finding interesting new blogs? I've found three main avenues for finding new blogs of interest. * Links from blogs I already enjoy and trust. * Searching blog search engines like Technorati or IceRocket using specific search terms. Technorati is particularly useful for this in that you can search on tags, which really help to focus the search results. * Links sent to me by friends. > the average number of readers drawn by blogs is ... one. ha! further underlining that the primary satisfaction in blogging needs to come from the act itself rather than any grand expectations.
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Thu 30 Nov 06 14:25
Tell us a bit more about tagging, Suzanne.
nape fest (zorca) Thu 30 Nov 06 15:19
I'm a big fan of tagging, a phenomenon sometimes called "folksonomy." The latter term comes from a mashup of "folks" and "taxonomy." A bit of history is probably the best way to explain tagging. It used to be that we would find a resource on a topic of interest by consulting a hierarchical taxonomy like the Dewey Decimal System or the Yellow Pages. In these top-down environments, "experts" come up with a set of categories that ostensibly cover all possibilities. Then other "experts" decide which category a given resource should fall under. The good news is that you can go to the library shelves holding books with numbers beginning 560 and you'll find all the books about dinosaurs and fossils. The bad news, particularly in digital arenas in which millions of new entries are piling on top of each other, is that there are only so many "experts" and many of the new publishers couldn't afford to hire them even if there were enough to go around. So a few years ago, tagging started to catch on among the user-generated content crowd. Flickr was the first to really make a success of it. Recognizing that image search is a conundrum, they started to allow users to "tag" their photos with whatever words they chose. This seems like it would result in chaos, but in fact the mechanism has proven amazingly useful. if you go to Flckr's popular tag page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/), you can see the terms used most often displayed in larger type and those used less often in smaller type. This kind of display is called a "tag cloud" and you'll see them popping up all over. They provide a kind of topography of interest for any service choosing to support tags. Technorati began tracking tags for specific blog entries a little over a year ago and it changed how I search for blog content. Tag search is just so much more focused than the usual keyword searches.
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Thu 30 Nov 06 17:15
As it happens, I hacked together a tag cloud for Open the Future a week or two ago, and I've found it quite useful, both as a way of quickly sorting content and as a way of giving an at-a-glance depiction of what I talk about on the site. But tagging isn't just for blog writers, right? There's the whole del.ico.us and digg.com phenomena of reader-tagging, too...
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Thu 30 Nov 06 19:19
Apparently my blog got 72 hits today...after a month of single-digit days. Listed as referrer was the Well. I can only assume this occurred primrily from this topic, since I only posted the URL in one other conf where I'm a regular, and nobody's mentioned going there. Maybe the "72" is a total for all my days? Wordpress isn't that clear....I mean, the way it's written, it appears to be for today, but I just can't imagine getting that much traffic today. I did just get approval for Blogorama....but that wasn't listed as a referrer. I'm not blogging for dollars. How would one go about making money with blogs anyway? But if all I wanted was to record my life for myself, I'd do it in my journal. My goal with a blog is to subvert the publishing process I've found so difficult all these years...my book reviews, features and stories have been widely published, but not the brief opinion pieces I'm posting on the blog. I'm also kind of frustrated trying to learn the posting process of my blogsite.
resluts (bbraasch) Thu 30 Nov 06 20:23
sounds like you're on your way. I've been introducing blogging to people at an art salon in bolinas. the first thing they told me when they saw the well screen on a laptop was to make the type real big. I've been poking around there with a site called sighbo.org for about a year, putting up pics and words about what's up. this is a town that takes down the highway signs leading in, runs off the sheriff, and wants to be left alone. The artists all have some kind of website though and would like to get more control of what goes on them. DSL has just arrived so now there's some interest in doing something. we just put up pics of the artist open studios. the salonistas made a few posts. we're going to publish what's happening. I'd like to put together a town blog that would make it easy for an artist or someone who wants a blog of their own to start one. maybe it's easier to just link to what's there and let everyone do their own thing. is there such a thing as a town blog software niche, and if so who owns it?
David Gault (dgault) Thu 30 Nov 06 20:31
what is it about blogging that attracts the Japanese, Suzanne? The 37% figure is a surprise to me.
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Thu 30 Nov 06 22:05
100 mbps to the home would be one reason.
Public persona (jmcarlin) Thu 30 Nov 06 22:38
> Apparently my blog got 72 hits today. Depending on how hits are counted, I was two or three of them!
Mecha-shiva! Mecha-shiva! (howard) Thu 30 Nov 06 23:26
>100 mbps to the home would be one reason. Web browsers and decent displays in every cell phone is another.
David Gault (dgault) Fri 1 Dec 06 05:58
Thanks! That makes perfect sense.
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Fri 1 Dec 06 07:58
jimcarline: thanks for stopping by!
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Fri 1 Dec 06 08:54
Howard's observation about cell phones in Japan points to a bigger question: how does the rise of relatively powerful mobile information devices change the blogging landscape?
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Fri 1 Dec 06 11:39
So much to say about blogging... I got the book over a month ago, read it cover to cover, and now get to read it again for this discussion! Yay! I've been blogging for nearly three years now, at http://www.sbpoet.com -- Watermark|A Poet's Notebook -- which makes 'staying on topic' easy, as there isn't one. There are surprises, though. Early on, I discovered Friday Cat Blogging, and jumped right in, enjoying the debates about whether one ought to post pictures of one's cats -- how ... kitschy. And that, of course -- not the poems, not the commentary -- is what got picked up by The New York Times, and still brings me most of my search engine hits. Cats. I love blogging. I'm mostly home-bound, so it connects me to the world. And, though I do not have ads and have no expectation of making money, my readers (and friends) bought me an iBook when my old computer crashed. Hard to beat that, I'd say. One of the things I love about blogging and bloggers (generally speaking) is the generosity -- like you, Suzanne, posting your book online for your readers, and adding your oomph to Blogging Blog (http://bloggingblog.org). I do realize it's a constant balance, to protect one's own work while offering it to the world -- but I think the balance, usually, is a good one. And I'm betting that offering your work increases your book sales. [The Well spellcheck does not recognize "blogging"!]
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Fri 1 Dec 06 11:40
Oh, and Marcy -- I'm one of those who went to your blog, from the other conference.
nape fest (zorca) Fri 1 Dec 06 13:28
> I hacked together a tag cloud for Open the Future Nice, Jamais! There's something so compelling about the way tag clouds provide a map of what's of interest at any given moment. Linear narrative writing is never going to go away, but these new ways of envisioning and sharing information certainly add to our overall grasp of topics under discussion. > But tagging isn't just for blog writers, right? Right. Jamais mentioned del.icio.us and digg.com as examples. I'm among those who had almost given up bookmarking websites because finding specific bookmarks among the cascading sets created by my browsers was just too cumbersome. And in truth, I didn't fully get the advantage of del.icio.us until I was beginning to do research for this book. I'd find a webpage with valuable information on, say, legal issues or a new tool, topics I wasn't going to write about until later. I wanted to make sure I'd remember to look at the page later and so I gave del.icio.us a whirl. I was wowed. Once I'd installed the simple bookmarklet, when I landed on a page I might like to visit later, I would just click on the del.icio.us bookmarklet in my tab bar and it would take me to a personal del.icio.us page that allowed me to type any descriptive tags that I might predictably remember to check later. It added any new terms to my overall list, which could be viewed as a handy tag cloud. Not only that, I found that by searching on other people's tags, I was able to find some pages I'd never have found in any other way. I'm now a very big del.icio.us fan. Digg.com is a little different. Digg is a "user-driven social content website." What that means is that anyone can submit a link to a news story. Digg users who think the new story is worthwhile can "digg it," meaning that they give it a kind of thumbs-up. Or, conversely, they cay demote a story. Stories with the most "diggs" end up on the front page and are read by millions of readers. Digg keeps adding more tools that allow users to control which kinds of stories and comments they see and that let them define circles of friends. The "diggcloud" isn't exactly a tag cloud. It offers a chronological depiction with newer stories at the top. The larger a story name, the greater the number of diggs it has received. Digg is proving to be a very important news aggregation site. Again, by calling on the user community, the body of information returned is more timely and better represents the interests of the engaged community. Digg has many imitators, but none have the heft of the original site. At least not yet! > is there such a thing as a town blog software niche, and if so who owns it? That's a great idea. If there is such a software, I don't know about it. Do keep me posted on any progress. I'd love to report on it. > what is it about blogging that attracts the Japanese The 100mbps is certainly important, as is cell phone use in Japan, but I think it's also a cultural temperment. This is a nation that loves electronics. The adoption rate in that tiny island country often allows it to outpace nations with much greater populations. > how does the rise of relatively powerful mobile information devices change the blogging landscape? During the period that I was working on the book, mobile blogging, or "moblogging" really took off. The ability to snap a photo, attach a brief caption and send it to your blog was just too appealing to many bloggers. Also, people are sometime trapped in long commutes or the doctor's office waiting room and those with enabled phones and blogs make use of the time to compose longer blog posts. This results in a wider population of bloggers. People who might not feel they have the time to sit at home writing blog entries, seem to find the time when their phone can be used as a composition and upload device. Some complain that blog entries posted from phones are less cogent. I'm sure that's true to some extent, but hey, not all carefully composed blog posts are all that cogent. A good writer will post something of interest no matter what the tools being used. > I got the book over a month ago, read it cover to cover, Yay! Thanks, Sharon. Writing books is so weird. You do it all alone for the most part. And then after it's out, you're lucky to hear back from one in a thousand readers. Associated blogs help some, but not everyone comments. > Cats. Haha. The whole cat blog phenomena is so charming. I can say that because I'm a cat person. Although I've never personally blogged about my beautiful creature, I can completely understand the urge. > I'm betting that offering your work increases your book sales. I think that's probably true. I was determined to keep putting up sections of the book because that just seemed like the right thing to do with a blogging book. My publishers were a little perplexed at first, but seem happy enough to see if this works for me.
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Fri 1 Dec 06 16:33
Blogging has come to the attention of for-profit companies as a way of both marketing and making connections with customers. It's come to the attention of non-profit organizations as a way of communicating their goals and mission. It's come to the attention of political figures as a way of galvanizing support. Moblogs offer blogging from phones, Vlogs offer video blogging, even the awkwardly-named "glogs" -- from cyborg logs -- offer updates from people using wearable tech. Suzanne, where do you see blogging going over the next year or two?
Frustro, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Sat 2 Dec 06 02:40
How about the term "flogs" for marketing blogs?
Jamais Cascio, OpenTheFuture.com (cascio) Sat 2 Dec 06 10:15
(Just a quick note: I'm about to hop on a plane, so won't be back online until tomorrow.)
Thomas J. Chermack (tjcher) Sat 2 Dec 06 15:21
This is a fascinating topic! Thank you for setting up / managing this conversation. I have a few comments and questions. I too am stuck with the utility / efficiency aspect of blogging. I don't blog, but I read them, and I am looking for blogs with useful information about topics of interest to me. I'm intrigued by your statistic of 30-50% of bloggers doing it for personal enjoyment -- and to me that is really reflected in the dearth of useful blogs out there (in my opinion). I guess, to me, this indicates people are reaching out and feeling a need to create another group of "friends" in a different world completely --- so curious. I would love to have a focus group -- confessions of serial bloggers -- and ask them what personal need this is serving... A second note: I am a professor at Penn State University and I use blogs as assignments in some of me courses. Students have to post what they are up to and in essence, these become journals, but they are so much more -- sort of interactive journals. I've not read anything about the use of blogs in this fashion and I am curious about your comments on this -- do you cover any of this in your book? Thanks so much, Thomas J. Chermack
Marcy Sheiner (mmarquest) Sat 2 Dec 06 19:52
sbmontana, I just visited your blog. I'm fascinated and impressed by all your little graphics. I wish I knew how to do these things; hell, I don't even understand half the terms in this conversation!
Sharon Brogan (sbmontana) Sat 2 Dec 06 20:51
Marcy, all those "little graphics" are quite controversial; what you see now is about 10% of what I once had (check out http://milieux.sbpoet.com for the rest.) Now my blog loads more quickly, and incites less snark. And I am happy to assist you with adding to your blog, anytime! It's easily done. Thomas, Suzanne covers pretty much all sorts of blogs in her book -- I'll let her tell you about that -- but there is a blog specifically about using blogs in educational settings: Kairosnews - A Weblog for Discussing Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy, at http://kairosnews.org/ I'm interested in those blogs that least interest you -- personal, creative blogs. I'm interested in blogging as an art form. I don't mean photo blogs, or painting-a-day blogs, or po-blogs -- all of which fall under the "enthusiast" category, I think -- but blogging as a new means of expression, incorporating many of our old means, but still -- a whole new thing, requiring a new aesthetic, a new way of approaching expression. Not that I'm doing that -- I'm not. But I think it is possible.
nape fest (zorca) Sun 3 Dec 06 09:02
> Suzanne, where do you see blogging going over the next year or two? Phew! That's a big question. The phenomenon has evolved so quickly -- and unpredictably -- that it's difficult to say with any surety what direction blogging will take. I would imagine that with tens of millions of blogs already out there, that the overall number will stop doubling every six months as its been doing the past three years, but there's still room for many more bloggers to enter the scene and each contribute to new directions. I would assume that among these, many will continue to be the personal journals of individuals just glad to have a place to record some of the minutiae of their lives. The ones that will have more impact on cultures are harder to predict, but I'll take a stab at a few. Consumer blogs -- Before blogging, if you had a problem with a product you'd purchased, or even if you loved it and wanted to tell the world, there wasn't really a venue. Now, if a computer manufacturer ships a model that explodes 0.1% of the time, the world knows about it within hours because bloggers all around the world are reporting on it and commenting on each others' blogs. This is bound to have a profound effect on the way companies address consumer satisfaction. Political blogs -- Pundits telling the world what they think are unlikely to disappear. Indeed, we will probably see more pundit blogs. I can see these having both positive and negative results. On the one hand, citizens have a chance to debate topics not generally covered by the political machines and to expose malfeasances and contradictions on the part of the politicians. On the other, there is the potential for demogaugery, for persuasive bigots or corporate shills to win over a portion of the population and skew electoral results in some sectors. For good or bad, pundit blogs are likely here to stay. Knowledge-base blogs -- I think these types of blogs are going to explode. We already see enthusiast blogs where individuals with particular interests and expertise share their knowledge with others. I think an online tool that falls somewhere between blogs and wikis will evolve that will allow individuals to better share and organize information. One of the weaknesses of blogs is the reverse chronological order of the entries. This is great for news forums, but not necessarily so great when you want to look up some particular topic within a blog. Tags help some, but particularly for knowledge-based environments, a more coherent, logical organization could really help to build bodies of useful information that could be updated and corrected on the fly. Another thing I see coming down the pike isn't necessarily tied to blogs alone, but to collaborative online environments in general, and that is reputation-building. Websites like digg.com, mentioned above, allow individuals to accrue reputation over time. If the stories you regularly submit make it to the top page, your "diggs" carry more weight. This can be gamed, of course, and that's the danger, but overall I think that individuals who are persistent and well-informed may well be rewarded in ways that enhance their standing within a community or even a company. Wow. As I start thinking about this, a jumble of ill-formed ideas start to come to mind. I'll save you my mental meanderings, but will wind up this little prognostication section by noting again that the evolution of these social network environments has been so fast and so without precedent that it's going to be difficult to know ahead of time just what direction new forms and tools might take. What's important for those wishing to participate in this grand experiment is to be open-minded and flexible, to keep reaching out to learn more, and to try things ourselves. None of the myriad blogs out there would have come to be if someone hadn't one day said to themselves, "Hey, why not?" > How about the term "flogs" for marketing blogs? OK. That's really funny. > this indicates people are reaching out and feeling a need to create another group of "friends" in a different world completely --- so curious. My mother reminded me that when I was a kid, I had this fantasy that when I grew up, people would all physically move to environs where there were others like themselves. I guess in a way I did that when I moved to San Francisco all those many years ago, but one reason that I could pick up a couple of months ago and move to a whole new city after all those decades happily in the Bay Area was that I have a community online that is already so spread out, all over the world, and I had confidence that we would remain in contact no matter where I might physically plug in my computer. Given this, I think blogs are one way that people are, indeed, finding simpatico others, others they in all likelihood would never have met in, well, you know, meat space. > Students have to post what they are up to and in essence, these become journals, but they are so much more -- sort of interactive journals. Good observation. This seems to be what really set off the whole MySpace and Facebook worlds. Whether directed by a professor or just because it seems like fun, millions of kids are starting to keep journals that either the world can read or a select number of individuals chosen by the author. This is at odds with the place we've generally granted privacy in our culture. This tension between privacy and openness has always been philosophically interesting, but now we're seeing it played out on a daily basis in very real life situations. > all those "little graphics" are quite controversial In the end, a blog should reflect the aesthetic and interests of the blogger. This sometimes draws criticisms from others, but hey, as the old fairy tales told us over and over, you just can't please all the people all the time. That said, there are certain sins that ought to be avoided and Sharon mentions one -- including too many graphics or graphics that haven't been optimized for the web, thereby slowing down page load. Many people will wait only a couple of seconds for a page to display. If it doesn't, they're on to the next link. > blogging as a new means of expression, incorporating many of our old means, but still -- a whole new thing, requiring a new aesthetic, a new way of approaching expression. This is the bottom line. We can refer to the old rules for narrative writing and image display, but we're entering a very new world that requires bravery, dedication and, hopefully, a sense of humor.
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