From the category archives:

Blogging Tools

Blogging and conversation systems need more integration

by Jason Preston on June 3, 2008

Fred Wilson is absolutely right about web discussions: Information can be sucked out, but it needs to be pumped back in as well.

If I write a great blog post, and it gets sucked in to Facebook as a note, and the conversation happens there, inside Facebook – it doesn’t automatically get attached to my site. The problem stems from the fact that all these different web services get value from having the conversation happen on their servers.

Facebook gets value from having a complete social environment going on inside their walled garden, so they’re not dependent on search.

Disqus gets value because all the comments left in their system are regarded by Google as their original content.

FriendFeed gets value from having conversations happen ON friendfeed, which keeps people on their service.

Business bloggers get value from having comments on their site because Google sees it as original content and because smart commenters frequently add to the knowledge available in the post.

Google is the largest roadblock in this process. As long as it provides an incentive to web sites and services who collect comments and discussion on their server (first), then it’s only smart business to keep things segmented.

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Two easy ways to automate blog content

by Jason Preston on April 16, 2008

I know that blogging can often take more time than you expect. I sat down to write this post half an hour ago, and I’m just now starting to type. Who knows what time it will be when I’m actually done writing it.

Unfortunately, successful blogging often requires a commitment to consistency that can seem daunting. Fear not – there are strategies for rolling activities that you do on a daily basis into good, useful blog posts with a minimum of effort.

Del.icio.us

If you use del.cio.us to tag interesting posts or pages on the ‘net, you can also use it to automatically generate a digest post at the end of each day.

You can find instructions on how to set up your blog by plugging your username into the following URL:

https://secure.del.icio.us/settings/USERNAME/blogging/posting

As long as you bookmark at least one item with del.icio.us each day, you’re guaranteed to have a post on your blog. Even better, if you’re bookmarking interesting things (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’ll be giving your readers a great set of recommendations.

Twitter

If you’re not on Twitter, you should be. It’s the new Facebook.

Twitter’s API is awesome, flexible, and completely malleable. It also gave birth to Twitter Tools, which is an awesome plugin for anyone using WordPress (and why wouldn’t you be?) that lets you import a digest of the day’s tweets.

So unless you go a day without tweeting OR tagging anything in del.icio.us, that makes two posts a day without even opening your posting window.

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How to compare statistics with competitors

by Jason Preston on February 22, 2008

Everybody knows that Alexa, although flawed, is how you compare traffic between your sites and other sites. Sure, your numbers probably aren’t accurate, but it’s a graph you can point at.

Well, now that Allen Stern at CenterNetworks is showing us that Alexa stopped updating their numbers on the 15th, and seem to be giving up on tracking statistics anymore, where do you go?

My current favorite tool is Compete.com.

It works pretty much the same way. You put in several domains (up to three without logging in) and it’ll go munching and then serve you some results.

Just for fun, I put in my blog, Jason-Preston.com, Teresa’s blog, Teresacentric.com, and this blog. Here’s the results page, complete with disclaimer: they don’t have much data, so they did some informed guesswork to fill out the chart.

compete chart

As you can see, I’m being soundly crushed ;)

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Keep your website Google-friendly: follow the Official Google Webmasters blog

by Jason Preston on February 15, 2008

If you’ve looked at the traffic statistics for any given web site nowadays, you’ll see the ridiculously high portion of traffic that comes from Google. The reason being, put simply: Google is the navigation interface to the web.

So I think it behooves most webmasters to keep an eye on what “The Google” itself is recommending for webmasters in terms of making your site nice and Google-friendly. After all, if you speak their language, it’s a lot easier for them to communicate with you.

OK, you get the metaphor.

The Official Google Webmasters Central blog recently posted a list of their top 7 most requested posts (essentially, the most FA FAQ). If you’re running any sort of link-tracking or affiliate program, you might want to pay particular attention to the post about duplicate content.

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NowLive: tool for internet radio and podcasting

by Jason Preston on December 19, 2007

If you’ve been thinking about getting your business into hassle-free podcasting, NowLive might not be a bad option (and it’s free!).

Tomorrow at 10am, Jack Olmsted will be interviewing Steve, Teresa, and I about our 2008 CES blogger party on his show, which will be streaming live on NowLive, and edited later for a more traditional podcast format (did I just use the word “traditional” to describe a podcast? amazing).

We’ll be able to tell you more about the service after the show, but apparently NowLive lets you host what amounts to a conference call that is both recorded and streamed live over the internet. If you want, you can even embed a widget on your blog that lets listeners catch your broadcast on the fly.

If you ask me, that’s not a bad way to get into podcasting. Everyone knows how to use a phone, and it takes a lot of the headache out of the recording process.

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Use Link Love to show people some link love

by Jason Preston on September 10, 2007

Back when there was a Gillmor Gang to regularly listen to, I remember being halfway confused about Steve’s obsession with “gestures,” in the internet.

I have, of course, spent the required five minutes of thinking time to get my head wrapped around it, and I now think he’s got the right idea (or at least, the idea I got from his idea is the right idea…you with me?). When you have tons of people on the internet trying to form communities, everything is linked by “gestures” – mostly those are links.

When you leave a comment in someone else’s blog, that’s a gesture (my definition). So is subscribing to feeds, mentioning people or sites in podcasts or videos – if Scoble wears a WordPress shirt, that’s a gesture.

We’ve recently discovered a neat little WordPress plugin that can help you enable these gestures in your blog: it’s called Link Love. (Now on this site as well as our Web Community Forum blog).

The idea is that WordPress automatically inserts a “nofollow” tag in all links that people add to their comments. This tells Google, essentially, to ignore the link. That means that people can’t bump their search rankings just by leaving comments with links to their sites (and yet spammers try it anyway…)

This plugin sets it so that anyone who comments regularly (default is 10 comments, but you may set the number as you like) gets those pesky “nofollow” properties removed. Now their comment links actually count for something in Google.

I think this is an awesome way to reward regular commenters, and also encourage people to leave comments. It’s also (wait for it)…a gesture. See? I told you it was everywhere.

iUpload Becomes Awareness: New CEO and Significant Investments from Greylock and North Bridge

by Steve Broback on July 23, 2007

Lots of big news today from iUpload. They’ve been a central player in the enterprise blogging game for years (and sponsored the very first BBS conference back in 2005.) They’re one of several players surging forward into the emerging enterprise social media market. They have a new release of the software which contains more “participation options.” We’ll get a demo and report back.

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Flock (the social web browser)

by Jason Preston on July 17, 2007

I have an addictive personality. I’m apparently 82% addicted to blogging. I’m probably addicted to video games. And I’m certainly addicted to Firefox.

Which is why I’m surprised to notice that I haven’t particularly missed it in the past two days while I’ve been using the new release of Flock. To be fair, Flock is built on the same foundation as Firfefox. The code is open source, and anyone is allowed to snag their own copy, develop it in their own particular way, and then release it back into the wild. And that’s exactly what Flock is doing.

As far as I can tell, the basic idea behind Flock, and what sets it apart, is the way it integrates a whole bunch of features that in other browsers are essentially extensions and plug-ins.

It boots up with a nifty “My World” homepage that is coupled to whatever actual home page you choose. MyWorld is a bit like custom Google or Netvibes in that it aggregates a couple different search engines, a favorite feeds widget (generated from the built in RSS reader), a favorite sites widget (which also appears to be automatically generated–cool!), and a favorite media widget.

When you go to sites like FlickR and YouTube, Flock recognizes the site, pops up a media bar, and prompts you to “enable advanced features”:

Flock YouTube SM

The RSS Reader is pretty solid. It’s integrated as a sidebar and the feed display gives you several important options (headlines, full feed, partial), and it lets you split into two columns if you want:

Flock RSS

And then the blog editor is reasonably good. It was a quick two-step process to get it set up with my self-hosted WordPress install. I particularly like how it asks if you want to append your post with a credit to Flock, rather than simply inserting it like Performancing. I wish it would let you save drafts, though. In fact, I wish any editor would let you save drafts in MySQL so it could sync with your web back-end drafts. Someone please do that.

Overall, Flock is a good package. It’s different than Firefox, definitely, but it has the same core reliability, and while it doesn’t have as many extensions (it does have some), a lot of the desirable features are already built in.

If you’re tired of your current browser, or just looking to check out something new, grab yourself a copy of version 0.9.0.

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Jeff Nick Interview: WordPress, Enterprise 2.0 and the EMC Innovation Network

by Steve Broback on July 3, 2007

I had the good fortune to sit down with Jeff Nick CTO of EMC at the excellent Future in Review conference a few weeks back and we discussed the EMC Enterprise 2.0 initiative he calls the “EMC Innovation Network.” A video of the interview is here, and my notes follow.

EMC is trying to achieve two objectives with the Innovation Network. One idea is that the network will create value earlier in the product development pipeline. Traditionally EMC has been very strong on development, but less focused on pure research. Nick is anticipating that the initiative will enhance this dimension of their R&D efforts. The second objective is on collaboration — to provide a means of getting cross-cutting capabilities and innovation across business units.

EMC has grown organically and also through a set of acquisitions. Within business units information flows fairly freely, but the challenge has been breaking through the independent silos so ideas can cross divisional boundaries. Nick feels the systems they’re implementing will provide a collaboration model that cuts across business units.

EMC is not alone in this challenge of propagating knowledge across divisions . Nick’s discussions at FiRe with Mark Bregman and Tom Malloy (the CTOs of Symantec and Adobe respectively), made it clear to him that other organizations are also also challenged with cross-divisional knowledge transfer.

Nick told me that initially he focused on providing a platform for process innovation. He identified a set of areas where crossing the seams between business units would be a priority. He began with the intersection of security and information management, and then where resource management and information management came together.

Content management and collaboration are key to the initiative. Nick feels these are arenas where Web 2.0 technologies excel. In the collaborative sphere, the requirements for EMC were:

    • To get people to be able to find each other
    • To communicate and socialize ideas
    • To harvest those ideas
    • To iterate across organizational boundaries
    • Enable rapid sharing, and materialization of collateral

Nick and his team investigated the capabilities of current open source collaborative tools and also talked to companies providing proprietary technology. EMC finally settled on what Nick calls a “framework model” which allows for integration of a variety of different tools. They specifically did not want to be locked into any particular monolithic platform. Nick’s team also preferred tools that their user community was already familiar with, and liked to use.

EMC largely settled on open-source applications including WordPress. The only proprietary technology they’re using is Documentum which is designed to securely share content and documents, but not a great way to collaborate. These tools have been enhanced by EMC with code to provide enhanced security, and some WordPress plugins are in development.

Nick’s team now has blogging and Wiki capabilities, along with RSS feeds, and instant messaging.

The collaboration is not just internal — the collaboration includes many university partners and these outsiders are granted access to the full capabilities of the system.

We’re working to get someone from EMC to our upcoming event to discuss the specifics of the tools they’ve implemented.

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How are Intel’s Business Bloggers Chosen?

by Teresa Valdez Klein on May 9, 2007

Jeremiah Owyang did a really interesting interview with Intel Internet Strategist Bryan Rhoads. For the most part, I found it really informative, but I’m going to nitpick on one particular question that I feel wasn’t fully answered.

Owyang asked, “Do you have an Blog Policy? What’s the publishing process like for the Intel Blogs, and who’s involved? Who is allowed to blog and how are they selected?”

Rhoads replied:

We do have a policy for employees that is essentially an extension of our long standing communications policy. Its very much inline with former electronic communications policies, but updated to accommodate the medium and new technologies…

There is no “content workflow” through PR, Marketing or Legal… it’s the blogger communicating directly w/ his or her audience. Unfiltered and straight from the blogger’s keyboard to the live blog.

Given that there is no filter for content before it is published, it seems rather important that Intel choose bloggers who will represent the company well. I don’t mean to imply that Intel bloggers are required to drink the Kool Aid before they can speak, but I would like to know what criteria they use to determine who can blog.

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