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<br /> <b>Strict Standards</b>: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method unfancy_quote::strip_quotes() should not be called statically in <b>/home/martingo/martingordon.org/blog/wp-includes/plugin.php</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / blogs

Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Bloggers

First, me:
It's January 12 and I'm only 8 blog posts in (this would be number 9). Unfortunately, last week was a very busy week at work, as we delivered a new version of our software to one of our clients last night. Things weren't so bad at the beginning of the week, but the 12-15 hour days really took a toll on me as the week progressed and I just didn't have much energy to write anything when I got home (even on Twitter, my most recent update was posted last Sunday).

Second, Gizmodo:
One of their bloggers ran around turning TVs off with TV-B-Gone. He's been banned from CES but the blogosphere is up in arms because it reflects poorly on all bloggers and jeopardizes mainstream media's already tenuous perception of bloggers as not-really-journalists. John Biggs of Gizmodo rival CrunchGear (the blog that I stopped reading when they posted a story detailing how to go about stealing Leopard) has a rather insightful post on the whole issue and I think he sums it up nicely:

While I’m sure editors at Business Week rarely have to sprinkle out sawdust in the break room, they are looking to emulate our style if not our traffic. Unless they’re willing to accept the risk of an asshole move with the promise inspired ones, they’ll be sunk. And unless bloggers are ready to act their age and use their skills, energy, and position to help consumers and not piss of PR folks, they’re also sunk. We’re almost there, but each stunt like this pushes us back a notch.

Also, see TechMeme yesterday at around 4:15 for more of the conversation.

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Producing/Participating More and Consuming Less

43Folders had a post about re-evaluating one's online commitments, something I've been trying to work on for a few months now, ever since the Media Fast Experiment I did back in September.

Google Reader is perhaps my most time consuming "commitment" and so it's the one I'm scrutinizing the most. Since starting over yesterday, I've read close to 300 items, have 60 unread, of which I'll read 20 or so. Over 10% of the content that comes passes through my brain is content I don't want. I've become especially adverse to the big group blogs that put out 10+ posts a day of things I'm only tangentially interested in. I'd much rather follow 5x more personal blogs and have more varied and more authentic posts, even at the same volume.

I also want to eliminate Digg from my life. Most of the stories I read on Digg are mildly entertaining but ultimately mindless. The community is fairly bottom-of-the-barrel in terms of intelligent conversation and the comment system itself doesn't help any even there was good conversation.

On the flip side, I'd like to spend more time on Flickr. My Flickr usage pattern has me posting a ton of photos over a concentrated period of time. Part of the reason is that most of my photography has been from vacations and I'm too OCD to leave gaps or upload them out of order. Now that that's slowed down a bit (I have <100 photos from South Africa left to post), I can go through my backlog of random shots and start uploading those in less quantity but far more often. Hopefully with more frequent posting I'll be more likely to participate in the great community that exists on Flickr.

As I said yesterday, I'd also like to spend more time blogging. With this post, I'm 2 for 2 which puts me on pace for 366 this year :-) Along with more blogging, comes more participation. I hope to do a bit more connecting with my audience via posts and connecting with other bloggers via comments and link love. The same goes for Twitter. I don't want just more tweets, I also want more conversation.

To reiterate what I mentioned yesterday, it's all about producing (and participating) more and consuming less. Just a warning: posts here might be a bit repetitive over the next week while I force this stuff to stick.

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First Post

I found myself starting a lot of blog posts with "It's been X days since my last post…" followed by some excuse as to why I hadn't posted anything in a while. It's really a shame how little I blog considering how much time I spend on the computer, so in 2008 my goal is to produce more and consume less. I've written around 330 posts in the 3 years I've been blogging, which is about 100 posts a year (though only 70 in 2007). My very lofty blogging goal for 2008 is to double the number of posts here by posting something at least once a day. Here's #1 of 365.

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Hating to Love Facebook

The blogosphere just hates to love Facebook. It took almost three years after it's launch for people like Mr. 5000 to notice it, (although in all fairness only a year after it became open to the public) and now the second something newer and shinier comes along people to start proclaiming that Facebook is dead.

Guess what? The 99% of Facebook users who don't care that Facebook is closed as long as it's not exclusive won't switch away; I also doubt that the 1% who do care won't switch either. App developers won't suddenly leave Facebook because OpenSocial is more widely supported; at best, an OpenSocial (curiously OS for short) app will supplement an existing Facebook app. Apps follow users and the users are still (and still will be) on Facebook.

Users may be fickle in their taste, but so many of them have invested too much of themselves in Facebook (by way of routine, photos, videos, wall posts and other content) to go running for the doors even if something tremendously better came along. The lag between the introduction of a better alternative and the abandonment of the old is long enough that Facebook will have time to react; just look how long AOL stuck around despite much better alternatives in both content and connectivity. Facebook's lock-in, while fragile, is in no way as big a disadvantage as everyone makes it out to be.

If OpenSocial does take off, Facebook can adopt it without much hassle and we're pretty much back to where we are now. If it doesn't take off, then it's probably because of Facebook and Zuckerberg and the gang have nothing to worry about.

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Perhaps The Most Ironic Post Title You'll Read All Day

Nick Bradbury on blog post titles:

As people subscribe to more feeds, the more they stop reading every unread item and instead just skim the titles looking for something that interests them. If you use boring titles for your posts, skimmers like myself are likely to skip right over them.

Ever since I did my media fast experiment, my Google Reader unread count has floated somewhere between 875 and >1000. Since I switched to more selective reading, I use List View instead of Expanded View and post titles more than anything push me to actually read an item. Another thing to be careful about - titles that are too news-y. If your post title reads, "XYZ Corp Announces ABC", then you need to go back to the writing board, so to speak. For one, a title like that often sums up enough of the entire post to suffice. In addition, a post title like that screams "Press Release regurgitation" and suggests that more of the same basic information that I probably read before. In this case, even "Thoughts on XYZ's ABC Announcement" is slightly better because it signals that you put more thought into the post than simply picking original-sounding synonyms to cover up the fact that not much, if anything, was added.

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Between Twitter and Blog

For the sake of this blog, I'm in dire need of an interface to this blog that is far more lightweight than the standard WordPress web interface. It's relatively easy to feed my tweets into my blog, but that's not what I'm looking for here. Tweets are far too casual to warrant a standard blog post, but blog posts are too cumbersome for some fleeting, yet not-so-informal thoughts. My goal is to find something like John Gruber's Linked List or Justin Blanton's Bits. Any thoughts?

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Turned To Crap

Paul Stamatiou on his thoughts on the state of the blogosphere:

The larger tech sites/blogs have “turned to crap” to quote an older friend in the field. Everyone’s got an agenda and a quota to fulfill; there aren’t too many “free spirits” when it comes to tech writing, which is why sites like John Gruber’s Daring Fireball receive so much acclaim.

His thoughts pretty much echo mine, and though I've mentioned in passing how much I hate the larger tech sites, this quote does a great job of summing up what I've been meaning to explicitly say for a while. The scale has been tipping to quantity over quality for a while now and shows no signs of stopping.

Some sample stats: Google Reader says that Engadget has averaged 40 posts/day. When I started the media fast experiment, all my feeds were read. It's been a week since that started and that amounts to roughly 280 posts. The current Engadget unread count is 272. That I've found 3% of those posts worthy of my attention is telling. In contrast, Daring Fireball averages 10 posts per day and I've read all of them without hesitation.

The "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach was fine when I didn't realize how much time was wasting looking at things I wasn't reading nor cared to read. Now things have changed. The large tech blogs have gone the way of mainstream media in their attempt to increase eyeballs. I am avid fan of a handful of TV shows, but you'll never find me sitting on the couch channel flipping; the chances I'll find something worthy of watching are so slim it's not even worth it. The quantity over quality approach doesn't work on me for mainstream media and I've come to realize it isn't going to work in the blogosphere either.

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For Kent: My Swivel Feeds

Kent has asked me to contribute five feeds to his swivel feeds experiment (I'm honored, by the way). I was going to include Engadget, Scoble, TechCrunch and Dave Winer as jokes, but I didn't want to pass up the opportunity so here's my contribution:

curiousgirl's playground - I discovered Jing's blog after the Penn link love that went around a few months ago. She writes about tech, business, web 2.0 and the like and her posts never cease to impress me.

Daring Fireball - I was hoping to include less known blogs in my list, but I couldn't pass up a link to DF. John Gruber is the ultimate Apple fanboy, except with an added touch of class and objectiveness, that make him the go-to guy for big-picture Apple commentary.

Information Arbitrage - Roger writes about finance and technology, two of my biggest interests, and that's what keeps me coming back. I really can't name any other blog that tackles these two areas in a way that strikes me as well as IA.

Marginal Revolution - Marginal Revolution is like Freakonomics taken to the next level. Alex and Tyler have their share of fun and quirky econ stories, but they're balanced well by more serious and/or theoretical pieces. Favorite recurring themes include "Markets in everything" and "Claims my Russian wife laughs at".

Signal vs Noise - Another popular one, but I love the simplicity that surrounds everything 37 Signals does. I can't say I'm a big user of their products, but I love their design and (by extension) their software development philosophies.

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Blogging Tip: Declare Tab Bankruptcy

Confirm close
As a result of all the things I had going on towards the end of school, I kept accumulating Firefox tabs of things I'd like to write about. I never got around to writing about any of them, and the number of tabs kept growing as I neglected to take action on any of them. I did manage to trim them once in a while, posting ones I'd like to look at sometime in the future on del.icio.us and closing others whose time has passed.

Even when I left Philly to come back home, I emailed myself links to the 22 tabs I had open on my iMac so I could open them again on my MacBook. Of course, I never got around to opening them because I had opened new tabs! Yesterday, Firefox crashed and I didn't get a chance to "Restore Session" and all the tabs I had opened disappeared. I wasn't devastated; I was free. The stasis I was experiencing because of my First In, First Out mentality disappeared. I could read a new post and comment on it without having to worry about the 20+ posts I wasn't commenting on.

Declaring email bankruptcy is a great tip for those paralyzed by an overflowing inbox. Similarly, I found that declaring tab bankruptcy helped me overcome my blogging paralysis and finally get a blog post out there. And that opened the floodgates, since this is my second post in less than 24 hours.

So perhaps it would be a good idea to force yourself to close all tabs at the end of the week. Archive the ones you want on del.icio.us, etc, and kiss the others goodbye. Your audience (what's left of it, anyway) will thank you.

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Thoughts on Blogs vs. Social Networks

Facebook's announcement of the Facebook Platform and the ability to add third-party applications to profiles has caused me to re-evaluate my thoughts on what defines blogs and social networks, and particularly where you draw the line between the two types of user-generated content (ugh). Tonight, I came across a post by my blogosphere buddy Kent Newsome on the differences between blogs and social networks and so I felt compelled to commit my thoughts to paper/bits/web/whatever (it also gave me an opportunity to return one of the many links he's been kind enough to give me). Kent mentions that there's a ton of people in the blogosphere that he's friends with that he simple would have never met via Facebook and I echo that sentiment.

That said, I agree more with Jay Neely on the fact that a distinction exists between blogs and social networks. The friend/audience distinction Jay describes is seen by the composition of my personal networks on the two types of networks. My Facebook friends consists largely of people I had a previous relationship with in real life with a few A-list bloggers sprinkled in there for the mutual ego boost. After some thought, I realized that there exists an underlying difference that can draw a firm line between blogs and social networks. Facebook is not a place to make new friends, it's a place to interact with existing ones. The blogosphere, on the other hand, is the complete opposite: it facilitates and rewards growth of contacts and communication amongst strangers. This is evident on many levels:

For one, there exists a social stigma about approaching new people on Facebook (it is perceived as "stalker-ish"). This stigma simply doesn't exist in the blogosphere and the mentality is in fact the opposite, as can be seen from the rise of blog search engines such as Technorati and Google Blog Search and the ease of sending trackbacks and leaving comments.

More fundamentally, however, is the fact that Facebook has set up walls between its internal networks. In the blogosphere, this is akin to only being able to use the two-line Google search description as criteria for deciding to link to a blog. And if you do decide the two-line description is adequate enough to link to a blog AND the blogger decides to let your link through (since all "links" between people are moderated on Facebook), then you simply get the "About Me" page with some comments (although I'll admit this will change now that Facebook has opened up a bit and third-party applications are allowed).

Finally, social network profiles are largely static and therefore not very conducive to sustained interaction on the network. Like I said above, how many comments and links would a post-less blog with only an "About Me" page get? Not many. The reason why social networks continue to flourish, then, is that connections created on the network will continue to exist despite this lack of interaction on the network is that the interaction happens off the network. Social networks facilitate interaction off the network, whereas the blogosphere is defined by the interaction that takes place on the (ad-hoc) network.

I don't think either will disappear in lieu of the other, nor will one absorb the other, as I believe the two types of networks serve different purposes. It has been possible for a while to integrate blogs onto social network profiles, but the tools for posting and interacting are much better on full-blown blogs that I haven't seen anyone close down their Wordpress blogs in favor of Facebook Notes or a MySpace blog (Twitter, on the other hand, is a different story :)) Tools notwithstanding, I think that the differences I mentioned above are enough to keep the blogosphere and social networks distinct.

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