Do you blog?

The start of a new year is almost upon us, and for me it’s a good time to refresh a few things, including my reading list. And I’ve realised that I’ve been awfully rude for a while and not asked what YOU are doing…

So, if you’re reading this and have a blog, leave a link in the comments. It doesn’t have to be specifically about marketing or social media (Some of my absolute favourite bloggers have nothing to do with either subject). Maybe let me know what it’s about and how long you’ve been blogging for? The only rule is that blatant spam blogs harvesting and reposting content from other people will obviously be removed.

So what’s your blog called and where can I find it?

Add comments with your Twitter profile, or video comments via Seesmic

One of the things I’ve had on my ‘todo’ list for quite a while was to revisit the various ways to connect my blog and related discussions and comments to the various social networks where they might be happening.

So I’ve now got Disqus running, which means you can log in and post comments via your Twitter and Facebook profiles, or even video comments with Seesmic. It will also hopefully aggregate any discussion taking place on sites including Friendfeed, which is also useful for getting an overview of all the conversations happening.

I’m also playing around with link posting via both Diigo and Delicious, and some other backend tools.

The end result should be a better and far more useful 140char.com for you – and hopefully some better and more efficient ways to share information for me!

Comment with your Twitter/Facebook profiles

I’ve finally started upgrading the back end of this blog to start tackling the increasingly important issue of connecting with the discussions posts can prompt in a myriad of places.

Whereas discussion was generally confined to the Comments section in days of old, now it can spring up on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed etc.

As a commenter, I’ve found Backtype to be useful for aggregating the comments I’ve made, but when it came to starting to tie it all together here, Disqus was an obvious, and easy choice to install and start using.

All of the comments made directly have now been imported into the new system, and I’ve added the ability to post with your Twitter and Facebook usernames, as well as importing discussion around a post from locations like Friendfeed. You can even post a video comment via Seesmic.

I’ve also installed a Disqus widget to show the Top Commenters, Recent Comments and Popular Comments, so you should see that start to hopefully fill out in the next few days in the right side bar.

In addition, I’ve also started combining my saved bookmarks by posting to both Diigo and Delicious, to provide some cloud-based backup and to see which is the best route for publishing any links I want to share – as well as looking at which plugins/widgets might be contributing to long loading times.

All aimed at providing a better service to you, the readers that make all this worthwhile, so let me know if there’s anything you’d suggest, or things you think I should definitely keep or get rid of!

No comment needed on NUJ comment

Happened across this post, via Antony Mayfield.

Regardless of the actual post, what really caught my eye was in the comments by Chris Wheal:

First:

‘Let me reiterate a principle of journalism: You contact the subject of a story and put the allegations to them before you publish.

Had you done so – contacted the NUJ or me, as you know I chair the Professional Training Committee – you’d have had an explanation.

The story would have been much less interesting. It would have been: Tired NUJ training chair, angered by poor journalistic standards on blogs, asks committee to engage with bloggers to try to raise standards.’

Followed by:

‘The NUJ believes that journalistic standards should apply across all media. If that sounds out of touch, and old-fashioned then sorry, I must be a dinosaur.

The NUJ fails to police those standards as well as it would like in the tabloid press due to the powerful media owners, weak industrial relations legislation, lack of a contractual right to refuse to do unethical stories and a host of other reasons.

The NUJ fails to maintain standards in blogs because bloggers themselves rejoice in having lower standards.‘ (emphasis mine).

I’m pretty sure I don’t need to add anything, except:

How NOT to do social media – The Motorola Mishap

Found on CrunchGear, and originally on Boing Boing Gadgets is a great example of one or more people spamming the comments of everywhere they can find to promote a new phone by Motorola. One comment on Boing Boing demonstrates how much hard work this individual has been doing to shoehorn his stock comment into completely bizarre and irrelevant posts – just look at the posts.

Incidentally, from May 26, 2008, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 came into force.

This includes measures to prevent companies or marketing agencies posting on online forums and social networks to advertise goods or services in a way which implies they’re a normal consumer.

Part 2: Banned Practices: (22)
“Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.
A second-hand car dealership puts a used car on a nearby road and displays a handwritten advertisement reading ‘One careful owner. Good family run-around. £2000 or nearest offer. Call Jack on 01234 56789’. The sign gives the impression that the seller is not selling as a trader and hence this would breach CPR”  See more, here.

Some news, and something for you to do next week…

Lake Finja by dandownunder on Flickr (CC licence)

Lake Finja by dandownunder on Flickr (CC licence)

The news is probably somewhat underwhelming, but I’m going to have limited internet access, if any, for the next 7-10 days. I didn’t want you anyone thinking I’d given up or vanished! It’s come at a good time as I’m re-evaluating the purpose of www.140char.com to offer something which is unqiue and complimentary to other microblogging sites, and how I best use the spare time I have to keep both sites running when I’m happily getting involved in more and more at my day job.

The good news is that I’ve had a chat about getting some guest posts on here and possibly 140char over the next week from someone new to actually creating blog content, if not to the internet, journalism, or multimedia. My good friend and colleague Angus Farquhar (his tumblelog) has said he’ll try to write a few things, and hopefully by calling him out publicly, it’ll mean he has to do it!

He’s a specialist in video production, having shot 100s of videos for Motorcycle News (Look at the honours on Youtube, man), including the ill-fated MCN Daily News show, started with yours truly. So if you have video queries, from webcams and Qik to professional set-ups, now’s the time to get them in the comments and get a response.

But in return, I’d like to ask a couple of things of the wonderful people who read, comment, converse, share, digg, stumble and interact in any other way with the content I throw out into the world.

Firstly, I’d really appreciate it if you’d show some love for Angus’s posts. He might be a paid journalist and great video specialist who observes my blogging efforts with interest, but I’d love for him to experience even 1/100th of the great interactions and comments I’ve been lucky enough to have.

Secondly, if you like this blog even just a little bit, but have comments, ideas, thoughts, offers of help, or you’ve spotted 100 typos and want me to get a dictionary, it would be a great time to get ideas and suggestions for improvements to here and www.140char.com. Although I might be offline for a bit, I will have a couple of days when I can sit down and think about what I’m doing here, and how I can improve. The best way to reach me is thewayoftheweb at googlemail dot com.

I’d be really interested in anyone also asking questions, or suggesting topics/sites/industries/things they’d like me to cover?

And if you want something to read in the meantime, a kind person has not only compiled a great short paper on Twitter (probably the best and most comprehensive guide yet!), but also referenced 140char in it. More details here.

A useful new site, and a future prediction…

If you’re reading this elsewhere, it’s from www.thewayoftheweb.net by Dan Thornton

Had a really good day in London, and met some cool new people, both from within Bauer Media and externally. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of reasons to write about them all shortly!

I spotted a number of sites mentioning Backtype as I was catching up on my RSS feeds on the train home. It’s a fairly elegant way of keeping track of the comments you leave on other websites and blogs – something I tried doing via Delicious, but always failed to keep track of!

If you’re interested, you can keep tabs on me at Backtype.com/DanThornton. The way it tracks comments is by tracking the url you leave – which covers most blogs and similar sites. I doubt there are any Dan Thornton/BadgerGravling impersonators out there, but they’ll appear if they’re dropping my urls! I’ve looked at alternatives like Disqus, and coComment, but never quite saw enough value to invest the time and effort needed. Backtype is far quicker and simpler, and may well encourage me to re-investigate some of the alternatives, depending on what happens – although Friendfeed etc also give a home to comments and conversation about blog spots.

Now the predicition. I’ve been prompted to pick some of the things I think will emerge next on the web (and I’m always happy to also spout my ideas unprompted!). I’ve often made the obvious observations around mobile and smartphones, and the fact that Twitter and microblogging are being adopted by brands, enterprise, celebrities and the mainstream. But the third prediction is one that surprised me a little, the first time it launched out of my mouth!

Twitter has a fair way to go to become really mainstream, but the next site/application to follow it, in my opinion, will be Seesmic. Most people in the tech bubble will have heard of it and web celeb founder Loic le Meur. But, like many emerging sites and applications, it’s taken a little time for the value of the service to become apparent.

For the unitiated, it’s a tool for video conversations by individuals, enabling responses to be threaded into coherence. Which means it overcomes the downside of streaming your life via webcam 24/7 – the dull bits. It’s already popular with some people withing social media – like top journalism lecturer/social media/multimedia person Paul Bradshaw – but now it’s also being used by mainstream media. The BBC has now joined the Washington Post in using the service, as written about by Loic today, and not only have they outlined how it will be used in their first video, but they’re already gaining responses to their first conversation about the financial crisis.

Now listen up, journalist people. Not only can you get a response from the more engaged members of society without having to do ‘voxpops‘ in the local town centre in the pouring rain – but now they’ll even video themselves! See the benefit now?

Tolstoy vs Twitter?

Rather than repeating myself, I’m linking to the comments I’ve made on the Britannica Blog, responding to a post by Larry Sanger.

The essay itself came out of posts between Nick Carr and Clay Shirky. At which point I appear in the comments. There’s an element of crossed wires and confusion, as there often is in debates, particularly those online.

For those who don’t want the context, my position is thus:

‘Regardless of the merit and quality of individual works, mainstream entertainment has gone from print to radio, to TV, and now to online (PC and mobile). This does not remove the value of lengthy works of literature, but it means it has less debate and therefore impact in the modern world, compared to when it first appeared.

The modern world leads to smaller chucks of information, as everyone has agreed. But I would assert the idea that these chunks should never be seen in isolation. And that the aggregation of information I make available via Twitter, for example, compares to that you would be able to dissect if it was in printed long form. And there is now more dicussion, debate and openness by creators and consumers before, during, and after the publication process.

If Tolstoy was alive today, he wouldn’t attempt to Twitter the entire text of War and Peace. But he’d probably discuss his writing and philosophy on his blog or on Twitter, and highlight important passages etc.’

It’s quite interesting that in a length post on the merits of longer works, the most interesting part is in the comments below…

Power your blog or website comments with Twitter

Now this is interesting, as I’m a firm believer that much of the power of Twitter comes from external applications – and that even monetising Twitter could be unlocked by the ways it can be used outside of the current website.

Chirrup is an application which allows you to utilise Twitter for your comments. Simply put, everyone can message you via Twitter, Chirrup fetches all the replies and sorts them by url (So you can have a different feed for each page), and you can then display it however you desire.

It’s slightly more complicated than just copying a widget – but no more than installing a WordPress plugin. It also caches message locally, and goes through your personal replies rather than the public feed – helping speed. And funnily enough, it’s also available as a Chirrup WordPress plugin. There’s a developer blog, here, for more.

Max Gogarty and The Guardian – From mistake, to farce, to learning

I was ready to lay into The Guardian again, as the whole Max Gogarty controversy seemed to be missing the basic point of blogging. Besides the issues of nepotism, and class, the controversy would have been much less if blogging had been explained and implemented properly, criticism had been pro-actively responded to, and it The Guardian hadn’t decided to sulk and stop readers commenting.

We’ve had a response from the Travel Editor which concentrated on the hiring and class struggle. We’ve had a story detailing the ‘hate mail hell‘ Max has gone through. And throughout it all, there seems to be a lot of surprise about the responses to the blog, both on The Guardian, and throughout the internet.

Thailand pic by Flydime on Flickr.

It went viral because someone decided to close comments. For the same reason that someone banned from their local pub will probably go straight to their next nearest drinking hole, and sit their complaining about the ban. If you want to discuss something strongly, and a website won’t let you, you go elsewhere.

It got complaints because it wasn’t honest and open. Disclosure isn’t an unfamiliar concept to journalists or bloggers, so I’m still amazed it proves so difficult for corporate or company-approved bloggers to understand that hiding things are pointless. You should be honest,
to the point of stating why you can’t discuss certain topics on here. I wouldn’t blog about someone I didn’t like at work, for example, or a top secret project, because they’d be biased, or damaging to that project.

It got complaints because the only response was to close the comments. In later stories, you saw responses from someone claiming to be Max’s dad, Paul Gogarty, and also Emily Bell. And even though there was still blame on the ‘nasty bullies’, and a time limit on comments, you can already see that the nature of the comments changes slightly when there is actually someone listening and responding.

But, it seems like there is some valuable learning. Emily Bell, The Guardian’s Director of Digital Content, wrote a piece on the value of discourse yesterday, which did acknowledge the value of participation.

There is one line that worries me when she writes about ‘representative insitutions’ and mass participation : “we can shepherd refinement into this new partnership”.

Why would we want or need refinement? Do we want shepherds herding us around like sheep? Or do we just want to feel like our comments matter?