Are blogs really dead?


Some have argued that blogs have had their day, for example: Twitter, Flickr, Facebook Make Blogs Look So 2004.

A blog (a contraction of the term weblog) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary …

I still think that some topics need more than 140 characters, and some topics call for a narrative integration & dialogue not open to us in many of the briefer social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook posts.

But perhaps we are seeing a move away from the old fashioned blog – e.g. Blogger, Movable Type or WordPress – for some users?

Along side this we are seeing the evolution of newer platforms like Tumblr and Posterous that are changing the way we can easily share different forms of content. They seem to sit between a short message sharing medium and a traditional blog, and they also easily incorporate multimedia content.

Seeing how all this will feed into other new stuff (like Google Wave) is going to be very interesting.

You can check out my Posterous – have been signed up for ages but had not really played with it much until recently.

NB: I am conscious of the irony inherent in a discussion about the death of blogs on a blog – it’s almost as amusing as reporting the death of newspapers in a newspaper 😉


Social media, reputation and immediacy


Reputation is critical for any person or business – we only have to look at the professional reputations of the James Hardie directors & managers in the news today.

Social media can be a great way for companies & individuals to build their reputations. But it also means that we need to manage reputation proactively. This is because social media harnesses the effects of network amplification, for both good and ill.

The great success stories show how it can be done effectively. For example, Tony Hsieh of Zappos (just sold to Amazon) has used social media – like blogs & Twitter – to share the corporate culture & to support both customer service and branding goals.

Also a number of people I know personally have obtained new jobs via social media – posting about their availability for work on their blogs, LinkedIn or Twitter.

But the other side (some might call it the dark side) works just as effectively. One friend of mine lost a job because of a seemingly innocent (but slightly derogatory) remark on Twitter. Or the very recent examples of:

The very thing that makes social media a powerful force for building online profiles so rapidly also enables the downside unfold just as quickly. The sheer velocity with which bad news can spread nowadays makes social media a sword that cuts both ways.

As Jeff Nolan points out:

“… there is no latency in communication today.”


Get lots of followers on Twitter?


Many times every day I receive tweets from people saying ‘get hundreds’ or ‘get thousands’ of followers on Twitter.  And every time I wonder what their frantic getting of followers really gets them?

It also gets me thinking about the nature of social media and social networks.  What are they for?  Even more, who are they for?

Are they just a place to aggregate all the consumers to facilitate better focused corporate marketing? That does seem to be the attitude of the many people who exhort me to ‘click here to get lots of followers’ and the like.

The other thing that happens a lot is people challenging me to show ‘the power of my network’ by asking followers to do something (usually sign up for a conference or something).

I hate this approach to social networks. To me they are community gathering places not centres of commerce.  Sure asking people to take social or charitable action fits in.  But commercial exercises feel very unnatural.

throw the money changers out of the templeIt feels like it is almost time to throw the ‘money changers’ out of our social networks.  Is commerce the only truly valuable thing we can do with social networks?  How can we fund social networks so that ‘commercialisation’ issues are not a problem?

The power of social networks to do good and to create community is immense – just look at the conference tweeting, social and political activism. Twitter has enabled ordinary people to harness the power of network amplification in previously impossible ways.


Evolving Twitter strategies.


A long time ago I confessed to @SilkCharm that I did not get Twitter and was about to abandon it. But at her urging I persisted with the darn thing. Then quite quickly there were a whole bunch of people following me, and it became necessary to develop a set of rules for who to follow back.

I developed a series of rules, which were outlined in a previous post, and these initial rules were pretty simple because I like reciprocity, real people and conversations.

Those rules worked really well for me for a time. But then the effort expended in analysing who was following & selecting who to follow back started to become too great an investment of time.

Now I automatically follow whoever follows me. The corollary to this is automatically unfollowing people who unfollow me. I do this because I still like the notion of reciprocity. This has freed up an enormous amount of time for actual conversations and other stuff rather than administrivia.

Over time I’ve realised that only a small proportion of followers directly engage with me & vice versa. When they do I’m happy to join in the conversation. Twitter is often about the network amplification of ideas rather than direct reciprocal engagement.

I find that timezones play a big part in who I engage with. Thus living in Australia it is mainly Aussies & Kiwis with whom I tweet during a normal day. But staying up late or rising very early shifts the engagement to the Americans & Europeans.

Adoption of the automation approach with following keeps open the flow of new people that I can discover. Sure some of these people are spammers, some are MLMs, but this approach is working for me at the moment. I’ve resisted the automatic welcome direct message (still feels like a form letter to me).

When explaining Twitter to people I often contrast Facebook and Twitter. For me Twitter is about the people you don’t know yet, while Facebook is about people you already know. However, the true value of Twitter as a community platform proved itself to me during the 2009 Live Local Challenge.


Live local challenge – what I learned #livelocal


My approach was that of an ordinary outer suburban Sydney dweller. I wanted to see how easy it would be to live locally using the local shopping sources – malls, supermarkets, farmer’s markets – without travelling long distances to specialist sources. I also broadened my thinking to include other things I consume, such as power, cleaning supplies and cosmetics.

The other thing I wanted to test was how possible it was to use public transport in preference to a car for as many things as possible.

I wanted to find out how sustainable a live local life style would be in the long term and what challenges would arise.

The biggest challenge was food labeling – it was often really hard to find out where foods actually came from. So many products simply say “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients”. Other foods say a location but you can’t see where the ingredients come from.  An example of this was the sourdough rye bread, which was baked in Fairfield, but for which the provenance of the ingredients could not be ascertained.

Another was how little I actually know about things I use everyday – electricity for example, where does it come from? And where other consumables, like cleaning products (mostly made in Australia from local & imported ingredients) and cosmetics (mostly not local) come from?

My addictions to products that are not produced locally were a big challenge: coffee (which I did not give up for the sake of housemates), chocolate (which I only had once but craved the entire time), olive oil, butter, and rice.

What I learned
Being conscious of small decisions I make everyday was my biggest lesson. The most important question to ask while out shopping is:

Do I really need to buy something from very far away if there is a locally produced option available?

I also had the opportunity to speak with neighbours and local shopkeepers to discuss where their produce came from. Some nice surprises, like that my local Chinese restaurant actually hand-make their spring rolls and use locally purchased cabbage.  There is a huge amount of interesting activity around sustainability and the environment going on in my own neighbourhood.  Many people are composting or keeping worm farms.  Several people keep chickens and many are growing vegetables.  We have lots of water tanks around the area as well.

There is actually a farmer’s market nearby, but is held on Thursdays during business hours, which is not much help to those of us who don’t work nearby.

My biggest lessons were:

Being conscious of decisions that I make, rather than just doing things blindly & without thinking.  Getting off autopilot and getting back  in touch with nature, the seasons and living consciously.

Issues to consider
Living local is an important thing to keep in mind.  But we really are part of a global community and we need to acknowledge this fact.  Some of us work on global projects and collaborate internationally.  Australia is a great distance away from many other places.  To participate in many activities, and for work, overseas travel is required.  Even with the best technology,  personal meetings are still often the best way to work with other people.  For example, I collaborate with people in Europe and north America – we do a lot online, but from time to time we need to meet in person.   One of the ways I manage this is to try to coordinate all the meetings/conferences into one trip per year.


My blog posts for each of the 7 days:
#livelocal day 1
#livelocal day 2
#livelocal day 3
#livelocal day 4
Where does soap come from? #livelocal
Neighbourhood vegetable garden #livelocal
#livelocal day 5
#livelocal day 6
#livelocal day 7
#livelocal wrap-up

More info about the Live Local Challenge or via the Twitter stream, & dont forget to check out Rebecca’s challenge blog too.

Here is a series of pictures that I took during the challenge: