If you look at my “8 Things” post about conferences from last month, you can probably ascertain my cautious optimism on what might be day one (for me) of Blog World Expo. It’s not that I have some arrogance about conference speakers, I just have a hard time computing the fact I want advanced topic information while some sessions are designed for the novice.
While BWE has done a great job of dividing the sessions into tracks, I sometimes leave thinking I didn’t get out of it what I wanted or expected because the speakers dumbed it down too much or, worse, got side-tracked and wound up talking about, say, RSS feeds, when the topic was supposed to be promoting your blog. (Hypothetical, not something I encountered today.)
Today was also full of laughs. There were your typical lobby rats, furiously blogging, IM-ing and emailing instead of actually attending sessions. The live bloggers (linked below) were pecking away, sometimes loudly, through a lot of the sessions, but certainly provide varying degrees of great rundowns of what happened today. And Todd Earwood, Chris Brogan and I Twittered back and forth all day on tonight’s pajama party and subsequent Falls after party at a friend’s bar, which made for some chuckles. You can see the feeds on each of our pages linked in this text.
Here’s a rundown of what I saw, learned and thought about today’s sessions:
Corporate & CEO Blogging
Moderated by Debbie Weil, author of “The Corporate Blogging Book,” (Recommended reading, by the way.) and featuring Jennifer Cisney of Kodak, Pete Johnson from HP, John Earnhardt from Cisco and Paula Berg (Blogger Girl) and Brian Lusk (Blogger Boy) with Southwest Airlines.
The session was really a nice overview of corporate blogging from different perspectives. I noted Cisney said that Kodak had no interest in building a platform, but focused on content. Their blog is stories from their employees, not product pushing. It’s all about promoting the fun and fulfillment of photography. HP was the opposite: They build platforms and want to show that off so they play to their strengths. Not bad, just different.
Earnhardt reported that a PR person is responsible for basic editorial guidance for their team of bloggers but also for going out into the blogosphere and promoting the various posts by searching for similar conversations, commenting on them and directing folks to Cisco’s blog for more on that topic. He also admitted they tried having their CEO blog via video post from his travels (“Not a typer”) but it didn’t quite work. So, they tried a different approach and have him answer three questions each week on video and it seems to work better.
Admittedly, I dig Southwest Airlines’ blog. I fly them frequently and enjoy browsing their stuff. Berg said there’s a huge media benefit from having a blog and with 70-percent (from something she read recently) of media turning to blogs for research and resources, it makes a lot of sense. She also earned everyone’s respect by admitting with the recent miniskirt controversy, they didn’t handle it as well as they could have. Her self-criticism was that they didn’t state their position early enough and the conversation got out of control.
Berg and Lusk also discussed the fact that not only are all posts and comments moderated, posts given basic editorial polish, but one of two executives review and approve every post. They report the response time (from C-Level folks â€¦ can you believe this?) is less than one hour!
The top-level takeaways were that corporate blogging takes a lot of preparation and thought. It is a lot of work for several people, but doesn’t seem to be a full-time job for anyone. Companies are afraid of negative comments and losing control, but with comment moderation, fair editorial guidelines and the ability to respond responsibly to the negative, the bad can turn good for your company very fast. You should also coordinate your company news/press releases with your blog because people expect to see that information there. (I say build your press release/news room engine using the Social Media Newsroom model and everything is then a blog post, but that’s my opinion.)
And alas, Lusk had perhaps the best quote of the session.
“Not every company should blog. If you’ve got a bad culture, a blog is just going to expose you.”
Expectation: Learn more about corporate and CEO blogs, how to use them and what are some of the thoughts you should entertain in building them.
Satisfied? Yep. They did a nice job. I heard a couple new perspectives, learned more about how some successful blogs are done and came away entertained at the late-Q-and-A debate about the merits of ghost blogging. (I think there’s none, but one audience member, listed as “Ghostblogger” made a good point that most CEO communications are cleared through legal, PR, etc., anyway and it’s not different.
Secrets of Video Podcasting & Vlogging
Gary Rosenweig, whose credentials I couldn’t find to elaborate on but the first slide indicated he worked somewhere that did a lot of video podcast production, gave a nice, how-to presentation on video podcasting and production. He spelled out what you would need in terms of equipment, software, microphones, lighting and such. He basically gave a quick review of my Radio-TV broadcasting 105 class at Morehead State. Not bad, particularly for a crowd that didn’t get a high-quality edumakashun like me.
The best pointers were those of making an archiving plan, making sure you have enough computer power, memory and such. People don’t realize how quickly 40 gig hard drives can be eaten by your cute kid vids. Then there’s the whole issue of hosting, bandwidth and the like â€“ all of which is important in your planning.
Rosenweig amazed Todd with the term “pod-fade” referring to burnout that equates to less frequent episodes, gave some pointers on how to shuffle the deck a bit and took the room through some learning curve features that anyone trying this will benefit from.
The biggest takeaway for me was his run through on distribution. He made a good point-counterpoint on uploading to YouTube versus developing a real podcast (an RSS feed with your videos). Yes, there’s a great audience at YouTube â€“ 10% of all web usage by some stats I looked up once but can’t successfully cite at the moment â€“ but without the RSS/podcast, you’re limiting yourself since iTunes and other pod-picking-uping sites won’t automatically see your show. Of course, you have to log in to all these places to tell them you have a podcast, too, but he made a good point that just throwing your videos up on YouTube isn’t enough to be successful with an episodic programs
Rosenweig did offer up an either-or approach to video podcasting to start it all off. He said, “Just do it with reckless abandon and learn from your mistakes â€¦ or go to a workshop conducted by someone who’s done that and can tell you what not to do.”
And that’s pretty much what he did.
Expectation: To learn some tricks of the trade of good video podcasting.
Satsified? Yes, but the level of my experience compared to the level the presentation was designed for didn’t match up perfectly. Gary was informative, though.
Creating Conversations With Your Readers
Wendy Piersall of eMomsAtHome.com, Dave Nalle, the politics editor from BlogCritics.com and Matt Coulbourne, CEO of CoComment.com were the presenters and took a different approach to the presentation. They wanted the session to be about meeting the community expectations, so they asked folks to raise their hands and tell them what we wanted to know. Among the topics were measuring comments/conversation and what’s the norm, censorship or policing in the conversation-sphere (Coulbourne’s term).
While the point of the approach was admirable, the unorthodoxy led to scattered thought. Coherency was not easily (read: not) achieved in the discussion. Certainly, good information was offered and learning occurred, but the conversation lost my attention pretty quickly.
Much of the discussion revolved around measuring comments and being able to rate, score or measure how successful your blog post is. Off-topic. The session is about community building not measurement. Coulbourne seemed to want to move the conversation along, though, and quickly steered them to the censorship â€¦ another form of community monitoring â€¦ which was good information, but had little to do with the topic. The session was supposed to be “Creating Conversations With Your Readers” according to the show directory and room signage. It was also called “Building Online Communities” on the photocopied schedules, indicating the speakers and topic may have changed a bit from the print deadline version. And the confusion apparently bled through to the discussion. Yes, the topics were what the community wanted to hear, and again, good information was discussed, but this session didn’t deliver on its promise.
Nalle did throw out the suggestion that having a widget that posts a snipit of the latest comments on your sidebar is a key traffic and conversation-driver. Nice suggestion.
Then, with minutes to go, Wendy said, “Let’s talk a little about community building.” She said it’s clear on her blogs that the reader’s come first, push readers to mingle with each other, encourage them to read each other’s blogs, comments, etc. She also encourages readers to work with each other to research or solve problems. And then she offered the notion to spotlight or write a post about a good commenter. Now, there’s some payoff.
Expectation: Learn tips and tricks on establishing or building an online community OR creating conversations in them.
Satsified? It took a while to get there, but yes, there was some payoff. Not a whole lot of it, but I didn’t leave completely disappointed.
Managing Information Flow With An RSS Reader
Hanging for a few moments last night with Marshall Kirkpatrick convinced me to switch sessions hear his talk on RSS feed management. The guy’s just smart. I had the same reaction the first time I spent five minutes with Drew Curtis, and that was when we were Governor’s Scholars together in high school. For those of you who are keen to social media name-dropping, he’s the brilliance behind Fark.com. Yes, a fellow Kentuckian.
Marshall, a former TechCrunch writer who is now at Read-Write Web, showed us his personal Netvibes start page where he has a well-organized display of not just feeds he reads, but organized combinations of feeds, divided by category. While this isn’t a lot different than the way I organize my Google Reader feeds, it’s displayed a lot more neatly and with multiple feeds displayed on one screen.
He was joined by Eric Engleman, the general manager of Bloglines, who joined Marshall in sharing several sites and services that help optimize your use of RSS feeds, both as a reader and as a publisher. Included in this list of productivity-improving sites were Dapper.com, ZAPtxt.com, Feed Digest, FeedYes, AideRSS.com, FeedHub.com, FeedDemon and more. The level of productivity the integrated use of some or all of these sites is mind-numbing.
Kirkpatrick also showed off a client he worked with to create dynamic content for their website from outside sources using social bookmarking solutions like del.icio.us and article tagging and using RSS feeds derived from that bookmark to provide content styled to provide the “latest news” section of the client’s website. The news is almost all third-party, actual news reports, linked off-site, but providing fresh content for the site, engaging the readers and keeping them coming back. To see it for yourself, go to RevenueRecognition.com.
As suspected from my 10 minutes chatting with Marshall last night, I got more out of this session than any of the others. Having recently gotten creative with RSS use myself, or what I might consider creative but on-time adopter by others, this session was well worth switching for. Marshall is obviously energized by coming up with RSS solutions and seeing how someone can take a simple mechanism for productivity and make things thousands of times more productive with it, you feel the need to go out and try to reinvent the wheel.
Too bad my next task is just posting this recap.
Expectation: Be amazed by Marshall Kirkpatrick’s knowledge, insight and creativity; Learn more about using RSS feeds for myself and clients.
Sastified? Most definitely.
Tonight, we’re all off to the pajama party at the Hard Rock CafÃ©, then to my Web-Famous Mardi Gras gathering at Fat Tuesdays near the Planet Hollywood Casino. An old college bud, Kevin Kevgen, runs the bar there and I’m hopeful he’ll give me free drinks if I bring the 3-400 people I’ve invited to this thing with me.
More tomorrow. For more session reviews, check out the live bloggers: (Random list from my search, not inclusive. If I left you off, let me know via email or leave a comment with your URL!)