Issues that Jack Krupansky has stumbled across as he journeys deeper into the blogging jungle
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I posted the following comment to a ProBlogger post that asked "What would be your top 5 qualities for a Pro Blogger to have?":
Now if only I could meet those five qualities.
Be concise and to the point with minimal rambling.
Have a little wit, but not too much.
Be a little opinionated, but not too much.
Teach me something I didn't already know.
Introduce me to somebody I wouldn't have met otherwise.
In case you hadn't noticed, Blogger has an option in the post editor to disable comments on specific blog posts. I've turned it off for this post just to demonstrate the feature.
I was just about to write that Blogger worked flawlessly today, but after getting the latest confirmation of a successful email post, I also got one of those cryptic bounceback email messages that says "I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be be delivered" when clearly the message had not only been delivered but also successfully processed (posted). That's a silly thing for Blogger to do, but since "all is well that ends well", I'm a relatively happy camper, at least for today.
People care much more about verbs than nouns. They care about things that move, that are happening, that change. They care about experiences and events and the way things make us feel.
Nouns just sit there, inanimate lumps. Verbs are about wants and desires and wishes.
Is your website a noun or a verb?
I immediately read the essay after spotting the appealing title, but I was a little disappointed since the essay told only half the RSS story. It definitely does a good job of telling the reader about the merits of being a *user* of RSS feeds (the aggregation side of the equation), but says nothing about the case for being a *publisher* of RSS feeds (the syndication side of the equation). It also doesn't help to clear up the ongoing terminology confusion over the distinction between syndication and aggregation (publishing vs. subscribing).
We do have to be careful when we talk about "using" RSS feeds. "Using" should be a reference to "the user" (i.e., the reader or consumer). Feed publishers technically "use" RSS, but as a medium for publication. Even publishers also consume information, but we should be clear on the distinction between publishing a feed and "using" or consuming (subscribing to) a feed.
But otherwise it was a good essay.
I took a chance and did some more editing of the post containing a Blogmap. The error message screen has a check box that says something like "Don't show any more errors for this post", which seems strange, but I set that option and published and everything was fine. Maybe its a bug and the error message shouldn't be displayed at all. Curious.
After I went through the trouble of making my last post and telling you how Blogger gave me an error message and wouldn't accept my edits to the post containing a Blogmap script tag, it turns out that Blogger had indeed accepted my edits, either when I clicked the "Publish Post" button or when I clicked the "Create" button to abandon the edits and create that intermediate post. So, my edited post with the Blogmap is in fact up and looks fine.
I ran across something called feedmap or Blogmap that is designed to show a map of where your web feed is located and can give your readers a count and list of other bloggers near you that are also using feedmap/Blogmap. Just as an experiment, here's the feedmap for this blog:
If this works, maybe I'll add it to the right side of my blogs. We'll see.
It seems to work and it is cute and clever and interesting, to me, but I'm not sure how much value it has for any of my blog readers who are not near me. Incidentally, I'm in Boulder, Colorado right now even though I live in New York. That means that I have to manually update my location (or the location of my blog feed) when I travel or head home.
The new Red Sox Bloggers blog is an example of a web page and web feed that simultaneously aggregates a number of other syndicated blog web feeds and syndicates them as a new blog web feed.
I filed a few suggestions with Bloglines, and by the time I was done, their service (database) was back up. So I immediately exported my feed subscription list, saved it to a file, and then imported it into NewsGator, my backup aggregator. Unfortunately, I am unable to figure out how to tell NG to mark all feeds as read, so I have to manually click on the 109 feeds that I'd added to Bloglines since the last time I synced the two "gators". Maybe we should call this the "gatorsphere".
Some people have suggested that we move beyond simply the blogosphere to something called the syndisphere, where syndication is the dominant effect, rather than expecting that people will manually visit our blogs. Personally, I'm not sure why we're not talking about an aggresphere, the world where aggregation is the dominant effect. Yes, it's a good thing that I publish or syndicate my blogs, but the real bang for the buck comes when people actually subscribe or aggregate my content. Maybe it's just a little confusion between these new oddball usages of the old terms syndication and aggregation. I believe that the syndisphere people are in fact focusing on aggregation, but they misunderstand the definitions of the terms. This seems to be a very common problem in the blogosphere.
It appears that I'm one of the first bloggers or even any media coverage on today's announcement of sentencing guidelines for "aggravated identity theft" by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. But, it would seem that nobody notices me, yet. How many people even know that there's something called the United States Sentencing Commission? Check out my post on my Base Technology blog.
[This is a duplicate post. I originally posted it via email, but when Blogger hadn't published it within a couple of minutes, I manually posted it. I'm leaving it here so you can see the kinds of delays that occur for email posting.]
In response to a reader comment as well as some oddities I had myself noticed, I'm experimenting with moving the Google AdSense ads to a location below the blog title, where they seem to fit better. We'll see how this works. So far, the ads look fairly decent and they don't mess up the page layout if the window is resized down.
I read an interesting post on the Engadget blog entitled "Toshiba putting 4GB, 0.85-inch mini hard drive into mass production" and wanted to post a comment, but clicking on the "Add Your Comments" button simply gave me the dreaded "HTTP 500 - Internal server error" error message screen. I tried repeatedly, but no luck. I even waited an hour and tried again. Weblogs, Inc. periodically has difficulties with their systems. Oh well.
BTW, I tried emailing this post to this blog three times, each giving a prompt bounce-back from Blogger, before finally posting it manually.
The question is when somebody is going to come up with a Lego-style snap-together packaging and connectors so you can buy a bunch of these little suckers and "snap" as many together as you want to optimize capacity and size for your personal interests. Stack them, layer them, "necklace" them, use your imagination.
That's the key: letting users determine overall packaging arrangements rather than vendors dictating it.
Wednesday was neither a good nor bad day with Blogger. The good news is that I was actually able to email posts, but the bad news is that there were a combination of bounces and delayed posting of my emailed posts. This was rather frustrating. We'll see how Blogger does on Thursday.
[This is one of the two email posts that didn't go through promptly. The other one bounced. I'm leaving this post so that you can see how Blogger works (or doesn't work). The proper post can be found here.]
As I've posted before, in the world of blogs, syndication is the act of publishing your content. But there's a little bit more to it. Syndication can also involve the simultaneous aggregation of content integrated with its republication as a distinct "feed". That's really the traditional meaning, as exemplified in this Harvard Business Review article entitled "Syndication: The Emerging Model for Business in the Internet Era."
I'm not doing much in the way of writing my own blog posts today, but rather I've focused on commenting on the blogs of others. This has three benefits:
Yesterday was my first experience with Technorati tags. Actually, I had two experiences. The first was a success, but the second failed. Now, just five minutes ago the Technorati database was updated to include my second experiment from yesterday. So, now I'm doing a third experiment. Lets see how it goes. Click on some of the hyperlinked words on this post to see how they go off to Technorati's tag pages.
I was just able to succeed with three out of four email posts. I've never had that much luck before. Blogger must have upgraded their systems today.
Aggregation is the process of gathering the content of multiple syndicated blog feeds and presenting them in a form that is easier to read. Software that performs the aggregation process is frequently referred to as a news reader. Aggregation is essentially the subscription to a set of published or syndicated blog feeds.
Syndication is simply a fancy word for publishing your blog in a form known as a "feed" that other software can read, typically RSS, Atom, RDF, or XML format. Usually the publication is done automatically by your blog hosting software, but you may have to add your own link or "orange" button to let people know where to find your "syndicated blog feed." Actually, most blog readers don't need to have the precise feed file name, but merely the URL of your blog itself and then the software can automatically find the feed file.
I had heard about Technorati's "tag" concept, but had mostly ignored it since my plate is rather full as it is. But then when I was working on my last post about a Sun blogger responding to negative media coverage, I noticed that a couple of simple words (rhetorical and propaganda) were hyperlinked for no apparent reason. After I finished the post I looked closer and saw that the links went to http://technorati.com/tag, which I immediately suspected must relate to this whole Technorati tag "thing".
Here's an actual example of a big company responding to negative media coverage through blogging. Sun Microsystems has been struggling since the dot-com "bubble" burst five years ago. That's a given, everybody knows that. Electronic Business magazine came out with a negative article entitled "Correcting course or sailing in circles? Sun strives to find a direction in a changing world." A Sun employee (Jim Grisanzio, Community Manager for Open Solaris) has responded to the article in a blog post entitled "Sun Attacked on the High Seas." The response starts out:
Here's a new slam piece -- Correcting course or sailing in circles. It's filled with the required -- yet recycled -- rhetorical and propaganda catch phrases and crafty key messages remnant of a PR FUD campaign designed for maximum negativity. But, like many of these articles lately, it's also so far over the top that it's really a caricature of itself. Some people have told me that I shouldn't point to blogs or articles like this (because I do it all the time), that I shouldn't draw attention to negative opinions. I disagree for a couple of reasons. First, it's fun. Second, we need to know what people are saying about us so we understand where we are doing ok and where we need to improve.
I emailed ten test posts for this blog to Blogger. Three of them were processed successfully by Blogger (#3, #4, and #10). The remaining seven came back to me as bounce-back messages with cryptic error messages from Blogger:
Command died with status 1: "IFS='There's a lot more text to the message, but that's apparently the salient part. The initial part of the message is:
'&&exec /home/bloggermail/processmail2||exit 75 #bloggermail"
There was no clue given as to how to contact "<postmaster>
This is the Postfix program at host blogger.com.
I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be
be delivered to one or more recipients.
It's attached below.For further assistance, please send mail to <postmaster>
BLOGthenticity has posted "33 Ways to Enhance Blog Credibility." As they say:
To succeed, a blog must have practical value for its readers, rich content, easy usability, and strong credibility. A blog can boost its credibility and win the trust of its readers by adhering to these basic guidelines.My comments to their post were as follows:
Sigh… you’re making this sound like real work! But, I guess it is what it is.
I saw no mention of “fun”, nor “passion”. Writing passionately about what you’re passionate about is supposed to be a good thing to appeal to blog readers. And if you don’t enjoy posting to your blog, eventually that fun deficit will become apparent to your readers.
I would also add the word “authentic” — readers are attracted to someone who’s “real” and has some appealing personality, and not some phony, plastic, corporate droid.I think one of the goals of a good blog is to leave readers expectantly awaiting your next post.
The issue of hype is something I struggle with. I think a little friendly hype is perfectly okay. Excessive or deceptive hype is of course not okay. Where the line is will depend on your personality. Some people can do more “good” hype than others. Is all promotion “hype”? Technically, the answer is yes, but most people are actually amused by a little mild hype. The real bottom line is simply “Avoid offending your reader.” Of course, it’s probably impossible to write anything that doesn’t offend somebody.
There is a free research report (once your register) on business blogging available from Forrester Research entitled "Blogging: Bubble Or Big Deal? When And How Businesses Should Use Blogs." The executive summary is as follows:
Although Weblogs (blogs) are currently used by only a small number of online consumers, they've garnered a great deal of corporate attention because their readers and writers are highly influential. Forrester believes that blogging will grow in importance, and at a minimum, companies should monitor blogs to learn what is being said about their products and services. Companies that plan to create their own public blogs should already feel comfortable having a close, two-way relationship with users. In this document we recommend best practices, including a blogging code of ethics, and metrics that will show the impact of blogs on business goals.It's a fairly decent and fairly detailed report, but there are many additional details that business bloggers need to master and blogging technology and practices are themselves dynamically moving targets.
I've try to get my web sites and blogs listed in the Google Directory, the Open Directory Project, and the Yahoo directory, but have had no luck. No explicit rejections either, but absolutely no responses after over a month. Yahoo does have an "express" premium subscription service that guarantees 7-day service, but its beyond my budget.
I'm not offering a recommendation on this new book, Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies, but I really just wanted to try to insert an Amazon book link in a post, including the cover graphic. Hopefully, here it is:
I had to manually view the HTML source code for the web page where I found the book, edit the HTML a little and then go into "Edit HTML" in Blogger's post editor and then center the image. It's not terribly difficult, but it is a pain and quite error-prone.Go ahead and click on it and see if my link works. Actually, if you go ahead and buy the book after clicking on my link, I should get a small cut of the price.
Your "cloud" is the extent of your presence on the internet. That includes works of your own, commentary by others, links from web sites and blogs, comments that you post on the blogs of others, etc. Eventually, your cloud will include some amount of media coverage.
This is a big question these days and has some significant legal implications as well: "Are bloggers journalists?". A post by Dan Bricklin led me to an essay by Christopher B. Daly, professor of journalism at Boston University, who has written an essay on a web page (but not a blog post) on the topic, entitled "Are Bloggers Journalists? Let's Ask Thomas Jefferson". It's certainly worth considering what factors were relevant to journalism back in the late 1700's, and how the situation has evolved since. Unfortunately, his essay doesn't give a truly definitive answer, but its points include:
Dave Taylor (of the Ask Dave Taylor! blog) has filed an excellent "citizen journalist" report of the session on blogging, entitled "Seven Million Bloggers Can't Be Wrong", at the recent Conference on World Affairs out here in Boulder, Colorado. The thing that I found most shocking in his report was that only one of the panelists was in fact a serious blogger. Rather than being a session with a view from the front lines, this was more of a view from "the enemy", with two traditional newspapers represented on the panel. Nonetheless, Dave's report is well worth reading.
I had to edit my recent post on that Java error message SEVEN times since the Java identifiers were so long that they wouldn't wrap properly on the screen. I'm not sure if the problem is in Internet Explorer or the cryptic CSS file that Blogger uses. In any case, without my manual breaking of the error message text onto separate lines, the white background behind the post extended significantly outside the rounded frame box for the post and caused the stuff on the right of the screen to be moved way down off the screen, past the end of the last post.
I was wrong... Blogger in fact did lose my next to last post (on Dave Taylor). I should have played with Blogger until I had verified that the post had "taken", but I was in a hurry and had a little too much faith in Blogger.
I formulated my last post, about Dave Talyor and blogging at the Conference on World Affairs, clicked on "Publish Post", and received the following Java error message from Blogger:
Why on earth do the "professionals" at Blogger think that I have any interest in such drivel?! Maybe they just have a weird sense of humor and maybe they know that I do to, but no user deserves to see such nonsense.
com.google.blogger.exceptions.BlogNotFoundException: We're sorry but the
Blog you're requesting cannot be found
No sooner had I succesfully posted my last post, then I click on the Blogger icon in the upper left corner of my blog to get to the Blogger "dashboard" and I immediately get the "Ghost-White Screen of Death" from Blogger:
Internal Server ErrorI hit refresh (F5) and I'm back on track, but it's rather disheartening to see such incredibly poor human factors design. I think all web applications need a "middle end" so that probelms on the server can be handled in both a user-friendly and fail-soft manner. If all I had to do was hit F5, why couldn't Blogger have software to do that automatically on their end? Duh! Welcome to the world of software systems designed and implemented and deployed and maintained without one iota of professionalism or "adult supervision". But, that's the world we live in today, so we have to put up with it.
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.
Please contact the server administrator, email@example.com and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.
More information about this error may be available in the server error log.
I'm just testing to see if even simply blogging is working today. Check... check... testing... 1...2...3. Seems okay.
Although I have managed to "sneak" a few posts into Blogger today, it has been unbelievably difficult. Tons of error messages, and lot and lots of retrying. Yeah I got in, but it was a true nightmare.
CNet has done a comparison of Blogger and Typepad entitled "Your own personal soapbox: two blogger services reviewed". I glanced at it briefly, but it didn't seem to have much of value, but you might have your own opinion.
Andy Santo of Microsoft has constructed a cool web page that does a web search on both MSN and Google and shows the results in parallel on the same page. This is a great way to track how your blogs are building your "cloud" in the blogosphere and to see how the horse race between Google and MSN is shaping up.
BTW, I tried to email this post first, but Blogger was not cooperative this morning.
-- Jack Krupansky
I just realized today that my software agent blog did not have a descriptive title. The subtitle or description was descriptive, but I just used the web site "brand" name (Agtivity) without giving poor readers a clue as to what the blog was about. Now, my software agents blog has the title "Agtivity In Pursuit of Software Agent Technology", which has the best of both worlds, a distinctive "brand" and a descriptive title.
Michael Hyatt has a concise post entitled "How to Start a Blog". Here are his eight points:
There was an interesting piece on The Register entitled "Google and Yahoo! accused of click fraud collusion". Advertisers pay Google, Yahoo, et al an amazing amount of money to place ads on these top web sites and search result pages (and blogs as well). Well actually, they don't say to place a lot of the ads, but they do pay when anybody clicks on them. This is the way it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, as the article notes:
Click fraud is a growing problem in the search industry. The practice has seen people - such as competitors or unhappy employees - click repeatedly on an ads to run up a bill for the advertiser. This can cost advertisers a lot of money and is difficult to track down.There is no cost to me to have the ads displayed on my site or blog, but there would be an indirect cost or lost revenue by me if people abuse the "pay-per-click" ads to the extent that advertisers cut back on their ad budgets.
Here's a great example of the kind of blog post that draws the reader in and almost forces them to participate in the discussion. The post by one of Microsoft's technical recruiters is entitled "If you were a dog, what type of dog would you be?". How can you not want to answer that question? You can go to the comment section of that post to read my reply.
I ran across one blog that has an eye-catching title graphic with a cartoon bubble with the text "Scoble says blogging will make us richer and improve our sex life...". Here's the graphic, although I can't be sure that it will still be there whenever you view this post:
I was finally able to send a message via Google Gmail from Microsoft Outlook Express. It had been hanging with a progress message of "Securing". I did some Google searching for this problem and others have run into it too (big surprise there). Some people suggesting reseting the SMTP port number to 465 (it was already set that way for me). Given that the problem does eventually clear without any intervention on the part of the user, there is some opportunity for "myth-building" about techniques that "cure" the problem. Kind of like "cures for the common cold".
I'm once again experiencing an inability to send an outbound Gmail message via SMTP from Microsoft Outlook Express. I'm sure it will start working again in a few minutes, but this kind of disruption prevents the kind of "fire and forget" operation that I've grown accustomed to.
This is the third time I've been unable to connect to Google Gmail in the past month to send a message from Microsoft Outlook Express. It's been "down" this time for about 10 minutes. I'm sure Gmail will be back shortly, but this is the same kind of occasional outage that AOL and MSN used to have years ago before they figured out how to properly put together their email systems.
My latest test of emailing a post to this blog failed. The difference this time was that it failed immediately with a bounce-back message, rather than taking several hours.
Bill French's MyST Technology Partners is a sponsor of a Dave Taylor workshop entitled "Blog Smart! Professional Workshop on Business Blogging". The workshop topic I like best is:
How to create a cloud of influence in your industryThat is precisely the obstacle I'm bumping into right now.
Thank you, Blogger. My blog is no longer being improperly truncated as it was just a few minutes ago. That was very wierd. The blog HTML is presently about 82K and only 37K was displayed during that brief window of time. I'll refrain from speculating about what may have been going on on Blogger's side of the fence.
My apologies, but for some reason Blogger is unceremoniously chopping off the bottom and right side of this blog. It was displaying properly, but I hit control-N in Internet Explorer to open a new window and the bottom and right side (links) were all missing. I hit F5 (Refresh) a couple of times and even told Blogger to republish the entire blog, but still no luck. I examined the HTML source code from IE, and sure enough, the source code ends in the middle of a post. The source isn't huge or anything (37K), and it did display properly and then not properly without any changes on my part. My other Blogger blogs display without anyt problems.
I just noticed that MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) has migrated at least some of their blogs to the Community Server blog hosting software. Community Server has this to say about themselves:
Community Server is a rich knowledge management and collaboration platform designed to meet the demands of the most rigorous collaborative needs. It is used by fortune 100 companies, small start-up businesses, schools, and individuals to better connect, share, and collaborate. Community Server is perfect for setting up a support system for products, reporting, and general information management by organizations or individuals.
I've known about wikis for some time and have even done a little editing on the Wikipedia myself, but so far I haven't done any of my own wikis. The main feature of a Wiki is the concept of collaborative editing, where one of us authors an article and another person can then edit the article.
Even manually posting from Blogger's web site is still somewhat problematic. I had to publish my last post three times before it finally took. The first two times I got cryptic error messages from Blogger. I would rather that the retries occur on their side of the fence and report success rather than me having to manually republish.
Everybody's talking about RSS feeds, syndication, aggregation, XML, etc. Unfortunately, Blogger doesn't offer direct support for RSS feeds. It does offer Atom feeds, and it happens that most software than can handle RSS also can handle Atom. More specifically, due to the extreme popularity of Blogger as a blog hosting service, everybody really wants to support what feed file format Blogger supports, which happens to be Atom. I have no idea what the relative merits of RSS and Atom are, but as long as everybody supports Blogger feed files, I'm happy.
Microsoft is now offering free blog hosting throught MSN, calling it "MSN Spaces". Just for experimenting, I've created a "Jack Krupansky" blog. I'm not intending to do much if anything with it, but I did put links to my other blogs and web sites. I don't know if that will help my Google page ranking, but it's work a try.
Well, my "Amazing" email post finally bounced back this afternoon. I'll keep experimenting with email posts until Blogger finally gets them working properly, but for now I'll do most of my "important" posts directly through the Blogger web interface.
[Note: I'm already email posted this post twice, to no avail. This is a manual post through Blogger. The first email post bounced with the usual cryptic message. The second is still floating out there somewhere. The original post was from Friday evening.]