Tag Archives: blog

Are You Reading Fact or Fiction on Your Favorite Blog?

It has now been nearly 48 hours since the world learned of the death of Usama Bin Laden at the hands of a United States soldier. There have been thousands upon thousands of blog posts and news stories written, dissecting every possible angle of this monumental story. Still more articles have been penned which do not even come close to anything resembling the truth. Speculation, conspiracy theories and outright lies have been printed on websites around the globe. The Internet is a fantastic place to get the news, there’s no doubt about it. But it is always accurate news you’re reading?

I cannot begin to tell you how many times in the past two days I have literally slapped a hand to my forehead, nor how often I have sighed very loudly while reading yet another far-fetched account of the events in Pakistan. The problem is that it’s not a simple matter of people having different opinions and viewpoints than you or I do. The issue is that too many people are focused on getting as much traffic as they can… and they don’t really care if they are printing actual facts. These types of people will say anything they can to suck you in. They love to tick you off, knowing you’ll link to their “journalistic piece” on their social networks in order to tell others how bad it is. That, of course, gains them even more traffic.

Earlier tonight, I happened to be browsing my way through recent stuff posted on our LockerGnome questions and answers site. I was reading a thread where people are debating whether or not the burial of Bin Laden was “proper.” An argument broke out when one person posted something absolutely ludicrous, claiming it to be a fact. When asked to back up his statement, he provided a link to an obscure blog that he favorites. Clicking through to read their article, my hand once again made contact with my head. (Note to self: invest in a forehead cushion!)

A quick ten-second Google search gave me the needed ammunition. Solid proof can be found on a website dedicated to the teachings of the Islamic religion. Which “facts” are you going to believe… those which came from a blogger who clearly doesn’t agree with something and hasn’t done his research or an official website of the religion itself?

Take everything you read online with a few grains of salt, even supposed news stories. Fiction abounds, my friends, as do people with less-than-honorable intentions. You also have to wade through rumors to determine what is real. Let’s not forget that the original stories about Bin Laden included the “fact” that he had been dead for a week. Unfortunately, there are many out there still holding on to that little tidbit as truth.

Just like when buying a product, do your research before accepting what you are reading as truth. Try to set aside your feelings and take the words in through an open mind before deciding whether the words on the page are facts.

Best Free Blogging Platform

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Someone asked recently which free blogging platform is the “best” one to get started with. This question is pretty impossible to answer. There are many decent free blog providers out there. As with anything, you have to research what they offer and see how well it fits your needs.

Blogger is a good choice for beginners. It’s the one I used way back in the day – before it was owned by Google. You can also use WordPress. They have a free blogging area, in addition to the ability to download the software for use on your own domain.

I happen to own a site for Geeks, which has free blogging available. Any good content posted there automatically gets featured in my daily newsletters, so it’s a great way for you to be “discovered” by people looking for blogs to read. Doing something like this can help you gain a dedicated group of followers, who would then read what you’re doing on your own site someday.

We do have free blogs on Lockergnome, but we only accept people there who have excellent writing abilities. If you feel you can write far better than an average person, we’d love to have you. Keep in mind, though, that being able to write well is not something that everyone can master.

There are also services such as Posterous and Tumblr.

Figure out what it is YOU need in a blogging service, and then match that against what each of the providers can give you.

What free blogging service do you recommend – and why?

Bloggers are Getting Younger Every Day

The newest member of our Lockergnome blog community happens to be young Froyoca. This site is invite-only, and it’s more than awesome to see someone so young have the skills needed to write as well as he does.

You can check out his blog weekly to find his thoughts on the latest news in technology and trends. He also plans to post weekly tips about Diabetes, since he lives with that every day of his life.

If you’re interested in blogging with us and receiving a 50/50 split in revenue, you can apply with the site and we’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

How to Blog Successfully: Community, Content, and Commerce

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I was asked to discuss ways to become a successful blogger for my recent OpenCa.mp presentation. When deciding how best to approach this subject, I knew I had to dig all the way back to my beginnings. I needed to reconnect with where I started from… specifically the feelings of inspiration I had from the moment I sent my first email. Having done this Internet thing for so many years now, I’ve learned a trick or three. Most people will tell you that having good content is the key to becoming a successful blogger. I’m here to tell you that that is only 1/3 of the equation.

Community. Content. Commerce.

You don’t have to be perfect to start doing something. The tools are out there to help you get going. Don’t worry about fancy setups or expensive equipment. It’s not about that. If that’s what’s holding you back then you’re holding yourself back. It’s NOT the technology’s fault.

I’ve long explained that community is inside of each of you. Your interests are wherever you go. Your blog could be an extension of that. Community, though, is not separate from commerce and content. They all flow together. If you lose focus on any of the three, there’s a larger chance you will fail.

There are definitely times you should listen to your community, but you are ultimately in control of your direction. The people who follow you will tell you when something isn’t working right, trust me on this. They will be quite loud about it. If you listen carefully, though, they’ll also tell you when you’re doing things right. They will tell you simply by retweeting your links, by commenting on your posts and by just communicating with each other.

You WILL have detractors. Screw them, though. Think of it this way – for every person who hates what you’re doing, there will be hundreds or thousands of others who love things just the way they are. Don’t let that naysayer stop you from being YOU. Don’t live your life (not even on your blog or social media outlets) for someone else.

One of the key things to remember when you are creating content that it doesn’t really matter what you’re saying, or what your intentions are. It’s all about how people react to what you’ve done, and how they project themselves onto you. You need to keep that in your head at all times. If someone becomes upset over something you have shared with them, that’s on them. Your content is only genuine if YOU are genuine.

Your blog is your nexus point. Every piece of content you create should flow directly back there. I consider Leo Laporte to be a good friend. I admire the work he does, and think that he’s extremely smart. However, I had to shake my head in amazement recently. He wrote a blog post talking about how Google Buzz had let him down. Content he had created was just – gone. It was no longer anywhere to be found. He commented that he should go “back to the blog.” My counter to that is simple “Why did you ever stop?” Your blog is yours. You own that. You own the content you create. No matter how many other sites you belong to and create content for, it has to come together into one central place. That nexus should be your blog.

You are already a success. How you measure your success is up to you.

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Why are Digital Journalists Burning Out so Fast?

An article in the New York Times today discusses the early burnout rate of journalists who work exclusively in online media formats. As I read the article, I could completely understand and empathize with every word in front of me. This is a cutthroat world we live in online. There are thousands of news outlets, all of which have to compete with each other to publish first and publish better. There are more places to read your news online than there are stories to digest. This equates to a niche that is so competitive we are seeing high turnover rates at many big-name media sites.

Google search ranking is the name of the game. If your story doesn’t rank up at the top, it may never be digested by anyone at all. You have to not only crank out articles the very nanosecond they hit the wire… you also much be conscious at all times of keywords, SEO and branding. Gone are the days of writing interesting articles and intensive investigative pieces for the Sunday edition. The world we live in demands to know everything about everyone – and they want to know it now.

Many companies track how many page views each article published on their site receives. Authors are paid (and/or given bonuses) based on these numbers. At Gawker Media’s offices in Manhattan, a flat-screen television mounted on the wall displays the 10 most-viewed articles across all Gawker’s Web sites. The author’s last name, along with the number of page views that hour and over all are prominently shown in real time on the screen, which Gawker has named the “big board.”

While this is an interesting way to attempt to reward and motivate writers, many feel that it is more of a “wall of shame.” If your name doesn’t appear on the board at all times, then you are regarded as not being “up to par.” The stress that these companies are placing on their staff is astronomical. I’ve heard from many of you out there who want to write for a living. There is so much talent and enthusiasm inside of you all. The problem is, I also have seen too many fresh-faced young journalists end up burned out and cynical before the ink on their degree has fully dried.

What are your thoughts? How do you feel we can begin to slow things down to a reasonable pace? Is it possible?

Posterous Takes Aim at WordPress

With Twitter taking over so much of our time these days, many of us pay less attention to our “traditional” blogs. They’re cumbersome, take more work to manage – not to mention more time. Posterous recognizes this, and is working hard to make things easier. They want you to blog – and they’re willing to help you move away from your current WordPress setup. There are a lot of “features” in the backend of WP that most of us never use. Those items have been stripped away from the new Posterous platform.

The new WordPress blog importer is scheduled to launch tomorrow. It will grab blog posts, comments and tags, and stuff them into a Posterous account. For those of us with a LOT of content, this process will likely take quite awhile. However, it’s not something you have to stare at as it does its thing. Just start it and go grab some dinner with friends. It will work quietly in the background, grabbing your life from one platform and seamlessly moving it over to another.

In return, you’ll find yourself faced with a streamlined backend, free of all of the features you never once used. There will be no more spam – Posterous is free of that (for now, at least). You’ll also be surprised to find how simple it is to email in your posts – even from your phone. If you can email something, you can blog it from your phone. This includes photos, videos, text documents and even spreadsheets!

Prolific blogger Phil Campbell has already made the switch. Will you be joining him?

Which Camera is Better?

Over on Geeks, someone was wondering which camera is the best. The first thought that came to my mind was what the bot in our chat room will tell you if you ask “what is better.”

“Chris recommends you use what you want to use, download what you want to download, try what you want to try, buy what you want to buy. These choices are all personal in nature, so it’s always difficult to answer the question of “which is better” (so don’t be surprised if Chris doesn’t answer your impossible question).”

No one can answer this question for you. It’s one thing to ask which cameras (or whatever it is you’re looking for) someone uses, why they prefer it, and whether they’ve had any issues with it. That is called information gathering, and is an important part of the research you should be doing before buying anything new. Always ask questions of others. Find out what their experiences have been with their devices. Read reviews online. Ask for recommendations.

Don’t ask ME what the best is, or you’ll likely get a reply much like the one above from the Pixie bot. What’s best for me may not be what works the best for you.

I DO know that what’s best for your computer is to keep it updated with the latest and greatest software we can find!

The Future of Ning Communities

A startling announcement came today from the Ning network. Only one month after appointing a new CEO, the company has major reorganization plans in the works. In addition to laying off approximately 40% of its staff, the company is killing off all free accounts. Free account users will have the option to either change over to a premium membership, or move their network to another platform entirely.

As I read this news, I breathed a sigh of relief that both Geeks and Gnomedex are hosted on premium Ning accounts already. As of today, we have more than 27,000 members, 14,000 blog posts, 19,000 forum threads and countless photos and videos that all of you have contributed. That is a LOT of information sharing, folks.

In his message to staff members, CEO Jason Rosenthal stated in part that “So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

They want to make us extremely happy? That’s excellent news for our community. There are several things that we hope to see in the very near future. These are very basic things that will help our little slice of Ning continue to thrive. One of the most important things we need to see is a better way to control members. Currently, we have the ability to freeze or ban a member posting spam or other unwanted information. However, there is no way to ban a user by IP address. This is a HUGE problem.

Several times in the past few weeks, our site (along with many other Ning sites) was bombarded by a porn spam bot attack. We’re talking hundreds of posts being made in under an hour. Every single “member” came from the exact same IP address. Whoever was behind the attack knew full well that Ning doesn’t ban by IP. If they did, this attack would have been stopped in a matter of seconds… instead of taking over an hour.

There are several other smaller details that we would like to see worked on by the Ning team. I am happy to talk with them at any point in time in order to help contribute feedback and ideas. For the most part, I am happy with Ning and the features we have (although, half of what makes it a functional community are the “hacks” that had to be put in place). There is always room for improvement, though.

Then again, Ning has never really understood how communities work – and their platform strategy only reflects the lack of insight from the top down.

One large concern I have is the fact that many of our members have free Ning networks of their own. Most of them will not likely have the resources to convert their account to a premium one. What’s to happen to their communities?

Well, unless developers and designers put their collective heads together… Ning communities will remain stranded on a mostly-closed platform. There are ways to export Ning network data, but no translation tool to take those relationships elsewhere. What about a tool to import a Ning community into a WordPress 3.0 / BuddyPress installation?

Heck, I’d host a WordPress hackathon at my house over the weekend for the start of that – would there be any developers and designers interested. I live in the Seattle area, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t work remotely with capable individuals.

Inevitably, we’ll have community hosting set up under Lockergnome’s Premium Services. Signing up now will get you a domain name, WordPress installation and hosting, includes many popular plugins, and Free / Premium themes. Packages start at only $12.77 per month (which includes the domain registration), and there are no contracts. You can cancel anytime you like. This is classic WordPress at the moment, but I’m making moves to go into full WPMU / BuddyPress / WordPress 3.0 hosting.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for – which is to say that freeloaders should probably stop whining.

Building Community From LeWeb 2009

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I’ve been online since 1992, and in an official business capacity in 1996. I’m just me… someone who loves gadgets, technology and communicating. I have always believed that community exists inside of all of us. Wherever we go, our community goes.

If you’re familiar with a Venn Diagram, you’ll understand what I’m about to tell you. It involves circles that cross over at points. There are many facets to the person who is me. Where I live is one circle. The fact that I love coffee is another circle. You’ll have to imagine where those two intersect. There are many pieces of me. So, wherever I go, I will look for people I can identify with. That’s where community is. It’s within me, and wherever I go… community goes. The same holds true for all of you.

Over the years I’ve seen many business models come and go, where they claim they’re going to create a community. That doesn’t happen. You cannot create a community. It’s organic and creates itself. No matter what tools you use, the community will grow. It’s all about the culture around it. It’s the culture that surrounds companies and products that will endure. That’s what builds the community, not the product or service itself.

The things we care about the most don’t only exist on one site. We are spread out all over the place. We don’t have to only hang in one place to feel that sense of belonging… we take our community with us wherever we go.

Community requires a tool that can’t be built – our spirit. We can throw tools online. But if you believe that a community is a tool… then you, yourself, are a tool. It’s what you DO with the tools that counts. The people who show up are the community. A community isn’t a blog, nor a Wiki. It’s all about the people involved, and their spirit.

WE are the community, not the developers who make the tools that allow us to interact!

When you look at the blogs that have “made it”, WHY did they make it? It’s because the person or team driving the blog had something unique to say, in a way that made people sit up and take notice. People’s voices are not a commodity.

How do YOU define community?

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How to Make use of Geeks

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Joseph is a member of our community, including having an active account on Geeks. He recorded a video talking about how he makes use of Geeks, and giving recommendations as to how YOU can best use it, as well.

Geeks is a site that allows you to have a profile, participate in discussions, add videos and photos, and even have a blog of your own. You can even join or create groups for anything you are interested in, which lets you meet people with common interests.

As of the writing of this post, Geeks has just over 26,000 members. There are more than 13,000 blog posts, 18,000 discussions and 1100 groups! Our members have added approximately 10,000 videos, 64,000 photos and several thousand audio files.

You can earn points through Ning, and give virtual gifts to your friends. Leave a comment for anyone you choose, or have fun decorating and customizing your profile page. Most of the content on the site can be shared with the World via Twitter, thanks to a simple-to-use Twitter button that will show up near the posts.

If you aren’t a member of Geeks yet, what are you waiting for? There are so many things you can do and get involved with… and it won’t cost you anything other than your time and imagination.

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