Monday, November 15, 2004

The Newbie Session with Rebecca Mackinnon

Rebecca coaches the newbies
Originally uploaded by Blue Blanket.

Rebecca Mackinnon's interest is in helping non-profit groups and civil actions groups in order to get their message out there. She's set up a Blog Wiki which has other blog definitions, aggregators and articles.

Q: What kind of person blogs?

R: We are now going beyond the early adopters and into the mainstream. News Organisations are asking how to use blogs. So are schools. To date, this has been a culture of the tech savvy but tools and cultures are rolling into the broader population.

Dave McLure (ex Pay Pal) said that blogs used to be about just text and diaries. Now it’s about different media and how you can get folk started without making it too difficult technically.

Ed Cone – Greensboro, North Carolina - created a blog which is very much billed as ‘local’. ‘Journalists’ sprung up all over the place – politicians, locals etc. 60 functioning blogs in the county. His message is ‘encourage other people to blog’. To create blogs? Start one yourself. Encourage others to do it too. User blogger tools like Blogger or Radio. ( Most folk start on Blogger.

Discussion around the misuse of the word ‘blog’? How many weblogs do BBC News Online or other BBC sites claim to have which are basically just authored pieces by journalists or other BBC staff. No links. No comments/debate. Blogs are not simply ‘op-ed’ pages – they should be about referrals and community.

George MacDonald – what is best practice in blogging? What are the tools and rhythms to make this work for you? A: Why do you want to blog? Is it about personal expression? Is it about being a techie and documenting what you’re working on. If it’s just about doing it because everyone else is, you won’t find the reason. If it’s just to write your stuff and let your friends read it – talk to them!!

Plus – what are the implications of entering the blogosphere? You become a public figure. Your views are out there. Implications here for blogging for dangerous places? Your identity is out there and that could be dangerous…

There was a discussion around what would make starting blogging easier. Rebecca's view was that it should be as easy as sending an email. It doesn’t have to be a grand big statement, could just be a newsletter to your friends (travel blogs, baby blogs).

There was also a lot of interest in knowledge management in the corporate arena, especially in using RSS feeds and aggregators in this area. Issue here is how you get folk to interact with a corporate blog.

RSS definition = Really Simple Syndication - which allows folk to subscribe to your site, as they would to a newspaper. So the site is delivered to them, they don’t go looking for it. If a site you like has an RSS feed, you copy that link location to your OS ‘clipboard’ and it’s delivered to you whenever a new post is uploaded. R- a handy tool to speed-read blogs and feeds from sites you’re interested in.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a drag and drop functionality, said Rebecca..

Is photo-blogging or music-blogging the way to go? Sharing photos can be the most powerful incentive to get folk to start – could we use the BBC’s most intuitive photo-app (
the news online one) to let folk upload to this kind of slide show?

Someone asked about any examples of where blogs had affected folks lives. We were told about a blog for a soccer programme in someone's small town in New England a community was created around youth soccer, recruiting kids and promoting sport for kids. One autistic child who started to play sports through registering with the blog is now talking and communicating with his family and his peers.

Personal note: I had thought that this would be a community of super-users but the newbie session was a great way to start the day. There was a real climate of trust and mutual respect/support which was very reassuring to folk who are new to this – and from out of town. It felt like a safe
environment to ask ‘nothing is too stupid’ questions. Someone asked about trackback, what is it and how does it benefit me? A software designer explained it too her really clearly, I thought. A good start to the day, which left me a lot less nervous about not understanding anything...

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bloggercon - the big room

Bloggercon - the big room
Originally uploaded by Blue Blanket.
Think I never landed? Think this site is dead? Fear not, gentle readers. More is coming.

In the meantime, enjoy this underexposed view of the main lecture theatre at Bloggercon.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Heading Home

I fly home tonight and won't be posting any more about Bloggercon until Wednesday - but will be gathering together my thoughts and drafting my posts offline at 35,000 feet.

However, to keep you going until then, and as an interesting taster about some of the philosophies behind blogging, check out Mary Hodder's summary of her session,
Core Values of the Web

Oh, and I didn't understand the phrase 'wuffie-hoarding' either and have asked Mary for a definition for us limeys. However, might be fun to speculate on its meaning. Any suggestions? Click comments and fire away...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Buzz Bruggeman

Buzz Bruggeman
Originally uploaded by

A man who can smell fear. And it's not just about that mic being shoved into his face.

Buzz was a gracious host - and real blog enthusiast. We had lunch together and he introduced me to some great folk.

You'll see me, hanging off his every word and typing furiously, just behind his right shoulder.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

What the...?

A bizarre statue at Stanford
Originally uploaded by Blue Blanket.

A little bit Star Wars. A little bit War of the Worlds. This is public art at Stanford University. I'm a little bit freaked.

But note the lovely shining sun. You don't get THAT in Glasgow in November. Oh no.

The Big Day has arrived!

It's Bloggercon at Stanford Law School, Palo Alto, CA. Let's not talk about the fact that my print-out of directions to get me to the venue was for Harvard, not Stanford - ie Bloggercon 2, last October. Instead, let's give up three cheers for the lovely maintenance man who had me follow him to the right building behind his white van - well, have you ever tried to find anyone to give you directions on a student campus at 8.15 on a Saturday morning?

Got there in time for some much-needed coffee and headed upstairs to a packed auditorium.

So – what do do you call a gathering of bloggers? A blurt? A byte? Or, as Jay Rosen might have it soon - a 'globe' of bloggers. (Okay, there weren't that many folk from beyond the US there, but, for Bloggercon 4, who knows?)

Here’s what you get - laptops a go-go. 3 to 2 ratio of PCs to Macs, I reckoned. Oh, and probably one woman to every 5 chaps. Most of those with laptops were online using the wifi links that had been set up. Not me, though. Oh no. I’m offline and on good old Word.

Larry Lessig opened up the conference as our Stanford Host. And got a spontaneous round of applause.

Dave Winer then took over for what was billed as the National Anthem. A lot of intro stuff about the conference and the rules, such as they are. Dave calls Bloggercon an ‘unconference’. It flows and links – like a blog. Several (young and agile) Stanford students have mics and will leap nimbly around the lecture theatre to let folk talk.

The roll call of Discussion leaders reads like the Burke’s Peerage of Blogger - Jay Rosen, Doc Searls, Adam Curry (who, embarrassingly, I used to watch on MTV Europe in the early 90s) etc etc. Rebecca McKinnon – who's chairing the first session I'll go to - says that ‘newbies are going to shape the future of blogging’. Dave W says that this could be the anthem of Bloggercon. I'll sing along to that...

So, what do folk want from this conference:

- What is podcasting and how do we do it?

- Learn more about text blogging and how to get into video blogging

- How to sell blogging to a large corporation?

- How not to screw things up in this medium like we maybe did in other keenly-touted technologies

Tony Kahn from WGBH in Boston talked about a whole new chapter of what could be called ‘public broadcasting’ and wondered how can we take this forward. Yours truly stood up and talked a bit about the BBC's (limited) work in this area - and got a wee round of applause and a ‘right on’ from Dave. ‘Let’s give people the tools to change the world’. Right on indeed, Sir.

What to sing as the National Anthem was debated. What should it be? The Stars and Stripes was out, it seemed. The room went through the Oscar Meyer Wiener song, Yellow Submarine, Kumbaya, the Internationale and even the FRENCH national anthem. Came up with This Land is Your Land. Googled it to get the words and off we went! And as Dave said, who’d imagine you could get a room of folk to sing even halfway tunefully - let alone willingly - at 08.45 on Saturday morning…

A post per session coming up. Stay tuned, Blog Fans.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Blogging for the People

A colleague at the BBC sent me a fascinating link to a piece about citizen media sites. We're really interested in how this might work in the UK. In fact, here in Scotland, we've dabbled slightly with our Island-Blogging project.

Here's the skinny. Take a handful of islands off the West coast of Scotland where every household has been given a pc and a (narrowband) connection by the local authority. Offer them a way to publish their own blogs via a quick and dirty interface which lets them post texts and images. And stand back and watch both the content and community grow.

And while Clyde Bentley, from University of Missouri School of Journalism, compares community journalism like this to 'little clippings you find on a refrigerator' - which I like as an analogy - the difference for broadcasters like us is that these stories can, sometimes, make it into the mainstream agenda.

My phrase du jour is a 'virtuous content circle'. A story gets driven into a broadcast news context and which, because that exposure gives the material some kind of enhanced validity, drives the viewer/user (I hesitate to use the god-awful 'viewser' word...) BACK to the blog environment.

An example of this was the story about a beached whale on the island of Coll. The fact that a post on one of the blogs from the island made it into one of Radio Scotland's news bulletin prompted this, rather surprised, comment from one of the island-bloggers: "What is best about the project for BBC and bloggers? You [the BBC] are in the news business – you got news about whales from the horse’s mouth so to speak. Perhaps not as elegantly put as a professional writer but it had first hand news…inside views, quotable stuff. This is an ear to a part of the world you [the BBC] seldom visit."

This was a turning point for the success of the project. The bloggers no longer just commented on the news, they were the source for the news.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy

It’s one of these things which was much easier than I thought it would be. Blogging, that is. In fact as Biz Stone says in in his new book, 'It's you! On the web!'

I have a colleague at work who was positively evangelical about the things. Has his own, persuaded me we should have one on our site, regularly sends me articles about trends in the medium. I’m not entirely sure what made me fire up late one day at work and try and start my own. But within days (hours?) I was hooked. It was like I suddenly got it. And, not content with posting my own, relatively timid, musings on
Scrinson I started to look about to see what else was out there.

Having spent the last seven years taking editorial responsibility for creating and publishing dozens of websites, all of a sudden I was making my own! I think that’s what gave me such a kick. And it was a skoosh! Casting back to a one-day introduction to web production I had taken back in 1997 or so, I even remembered some of the fundamentals of html and managed to do some rather nifty things with moving text from left to right and working out how to tweak some bits of code (get me!!) in order to re-size fonts in
Flickr photo uploads.

Of course when you’ve worked with (wonderful) web designers and producers for this many years, you’re never quite content with the finished product. I revisit any posts I do on my personal Blog at least once after I've published. Which is quite anal.

But I still love seeing the stuff online. Even if my friends and colleagues think I've joined a rather geeky gang late in life. But hey. THEY'RE not going to California in ten days...