Tag Archives: content

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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Flipboard for the iPad – Free!

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The other night my long-time friend Robert Scoble tweeted out a link about his interview with the CEO of the company that created the free Flipboard application. This app is the future of news distribution. It’s a beautiful mashup between social media connections as well as traditional and community sources. This, my friends, is the way I’m going to start navigating information that flows through all of the channels I am most interested in.

Flipboard takes news sources that YOU choose and mashes them together with your Twitter and Facebook feeds. It then provides you with a unique web experience. Maneuvering through the interface is as easy as flipping the page in a printed magazine. Things shared across Facebook are suddenly turned into articles in said magazine, and all of your multimedia is put right in front of your nose when you want it.

Right at the top, it shows me my Twitter lists. If I wanted to, I could add information from the various lists I have built into my Flipboard stream. There are some interesting “picks” that the app suggests for you to check out – which is a fantastic way to discover new types of content.

The only drawback I see thus far is being limited to only nine different sources. Hello! I’m a Geek. I need more information – not less! It was quite late when I recorded this video, so forgive me if I missed something somewhere. There may very well be a way to add more. I simply hadn’t found it as of the recording of this video.

Thanks so much to @scobleizer for sharing information about this app. This is by far the most amazing must-have app I’ve come across in a long time.

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How to Improve the Readability of a Web Page for Free

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Boomarklets are awesome. I remember the first time I saw them – I was amazed! You find them on web pages, and you press the button linked to them. They’ll do a variety of things, depending on what they were designed to do. I used to use Internet Explorer, and have now switched to Safari. So, some of the bookmarklets I’ve made over the years no longer work. Certain bookmarklets will only work in certain browsers. The reason I’m bringing this up is that one: they’re actually just awesome. And two, you should always install them when you can, since they do a variety of great things. One I’ve recently found will help improve the readability of web pages.

The Readability Experiment by the folks at the arc90 lab is a browser bookmarklet. Reading anything on the Internet has become a full-on nightmare. As media outlets attempt to eke out as much advertising revenue as possible, we’re left trying to put blinders on to mask away all the insanity that surrounds the content we’re trying to read.

First you configure it: choose your style, including text size and page margin size. Make it look the way you would like, so that you’re more tempted to read it. If you’re on any web page that is annoying you because it wasn’t designed well, you can use it to ‘clean up’ the page. It will remove the unnecessary things you don’t want to see. I went to a post in my blog and clicked the Readability bookmarklet. It removed the video, the comments, and even the ads. It removed everything other than the actual content.

Readability is a very cool project. You can use it anywhere. My recommendation is to use it on MySpace, since they aren’t the best-designed pages on the planet. If you want to read any page easier without fighting through nonsense, install Readability.

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On Community-Created Content…

First, we’re going to try a “Caption This” community content creation experiment. Then, I’m going to do my best to cover these points (or at least bring them up for discussion):

  • The best community tools can’t be built.
  • People exist everywhere online, as does the idea of community.
  • Content is a commodity, as is community.
  • Awaken to the Attention Metric: more important than traffic.
  • Community is no longer defined by boundaries; affinity is global.
  • Sharing is caring: embedding is the only thing.
  • Conversations happen anywhere, anytime.
  • You can’t control the community growth process.
  • There’s a great amount of control in being out-of-control.
  • Social is off-site; Exist Where They Exist.
  • The Lazyweb is always more powerful than you.
  • Viral happens, it can’t be planned.
  • A blog is merely a tool, as are social networks.
  • It doesn’t matter if most content sucks – it still exists!
  • Brand is becoming increasingly decentralized.
  • Content bends around delivery mechanisms.
  • Google is the great mitigator.
  • Digital distribution is infinitely scalable.

What's the Best Way to Write a Forum or Blog Post?

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If you’re looking to write on Geeks or any other site, you need to make sure you create good content. There are many factors involved in this process. I’ve written out my top five points to keep in mind, to help you get started.

  1. Lead with a strong headline. Sometimes it’s a leading question, sometimes it’s a statement that pulls people into reading what’s inside. Single words or simple phrases are to be avoided in a headline if at all possible.
  2. Remember your PUGS. It’s short for: Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, Spelling. This isn’t a text message, and it isn’t a Twitter post.
  3. Don’t just ask a simple question. If you want responses, spend a great degree of time crafting your position in the matter. If anything, this is why I always like to do “top 5 lists” – people love digesting well thought-out bullet points. If you’re covering a news story or product launch, what about some photos, videos, original text. Never copy someone else’s content – especially without permission. Quote your sources.
  4. Use others If other community members have started threads that are active and/or relevant to what you’re going to write about, link to them! It’s cross-discovery, not a competition.
  5. Own it. You can write about anything, just own what you say. Don’t treat opinions like facts, and vice versa. If something is a rumor, TREAT IT as a rumor.

Write about what you know, and what you’re passionate about. Your words equal your identity online. It’s imperative you take the time to know what you’re writing, and why. By writing well thought-out content, you will build a following. People with similar interests will gravitate to you, and want to know what you have to say.

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Steal my Content – with Permission and Credit

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Isn’t this soundboard the coolest thing? It was created by live community member desertwarrior. Not only is it fun, it also really underscores my belief in being open about everything I do. He’s taken about 60 clips of things I’ve said and sounds I’ve made, and put them together in this neat little application you can all play with.

There are some content producers who aren’t as unfriendly to their community. They aren’t as open to letting their community to do things like this. I’ve said in the past you can use my Chris heads anytime you want. This just wraps up everything I enjoy about interacting with people on the Web. Until the day comes when I lose my voice… I’ll be able to keep this up.

I don’t know how you all feel about this. If you create content and put it online… do you let the community take the ball and run with it. If you don’t allow it… why? I’m just curious as to why don’t. You’re free to use any of my content. All I ask is a small amount of credit. Embed my videos. Share a link of mine. Use an article I’ve written. Just show me the final product. Send me a .pdf, or a link… just something I can see. Go ahead and use those clips and sound bites. Just be friendly about it, not gross or illegal. Thats just not right. Again, all I ask is you give some type of credit (a link back to my site is fine).

Let’s not go overboard though. The World can only take so much of me. Heck… I can only take so much of me.


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