Posts Tagged 'Blogging'

Self-Hosted and all in one piece

Last night The Broad Brush moved to self-hosting mode.  It is now hosted at Dreamhost and running WordPress 2.5.1.  There were minimal issues moving to the new platform but all of the posts, pages and comments made it.

I’m looking forward to enjoying the site more as the blog publisher and hopefully you’ll enjoy it more too.  The feed has been shifted here, no need to change a thing if you subscribe via Feedburner.   For everyone else, the blog is now at http://toddrjordan.com/thebroadbrush.

Let the party begin!

What I learned about blogging while shopping at American Greetings

     It’s Mother’s Day weekend, so of course that finds me buying a card on the busiest day for it.  My wife was off to buy some clothes while I shopped for her card.  At her suggestion, I chose the American Greetings store.

     Right away I spotted the perfect extra to go with the card, long stemmed crafted flowers.  Picking those up, I also quickly found the perfect card.  One of my best shopping experiences at a card store. This particular store, though small, is well used by us, so I wasn’t surprised at this. What surprised me was the counter experience.

     The young lady behind the counter took the flowers and the card and began ringing them up.  Still things are fine at this point, but then a 2nd counter person takes her place, and she ran off to the back of the store for something urgent.  I’m still good though, as the new clerk finishes ringing me up, and mentions a discount.

     I told her thank you and then went to use the credit card machine. It was hung up. It showed a total but not the one matching what she’d just said, and the credit/debit click spots weren’t working.  We agreed I’d just let her scan the card behind the counter, and I handed it over.  She decided to check the total first.  That’s when it suddenly went down hill.

     The manager showed and um, how should I say this, ‘took over.’  She took my credit card from the other lady and chastised her, and rudely took over at the register.  The manager proclaimed she’d have to re-ring the whole thing and in a loud voice, declared to the clerk, “..if he’s going to argue about it, let’s do it over.”

     Talk about an oh my gosh experience. To watch her treat this other employee rudely was embarrassing for me and the employee, but to be spoken of in the third person and have it stated I was arguing, was almost too much.  Had they not had my intended purchase behind the counter, I’d have walked out immediately.

     I then mentioned to the manager that things were fine and that I had not argued with the clerk.  She uttered something about having re-ring and had the clerk help her ring the items.  The manager then explained to me how she was going ring the flowers and proceeded to do so.  To wrap up the effort, she grabs a stray sticker off the counter, and was about to ring it up for me too.  She then asked if it was mine. It took me a moment to realize what she’d done and was asking, and to add to the confusion, she asked me a few times repeatedly if this was mine.

     Once I realized what it was, I told her no. She completed ringing it out and read me the total.  It was the same as the previous total.  Again the card reader was hung. I showed her the reader.  Her response? A quick lecture about how they couldn’t reboot the reader until there were no more customers, and appeared to shrug and sigh at that, before asking me for my card again.

     I took my receipt from her, signed the slip and left.  And so here we are.  To the lessons learned during my visit to American Greetings.

  • Don’t treat us impersonally or talk about us, we will remember it
  • Don’t treat others rudely, we are empathetic and will feel like you did it to us
  • Your image isn’t what you sell, it’s how you sell it
  • If things don’t work right, it isn’t our fault, and don’t make us feel like it is
  • Overall the experience we have should be one that welcomes us back again

     Though not profound, these are key to how you run a blog or a business.  I find I forget about the overall experience at times.  If I want readers back, they need to feel welcome to be here.

     What have your shopping experiences taught you about blogging or running your own business? How would this experience have affected you? Would you shop there again with other choices?  Share with us.

((* the image is by merfam, and is licensed through Creative Commons))

Bloggers Assemble!

Bloggers Assembled

     It was a rainy Chicago afternoon and evening, on a Spring day in May.  They’d come from all over the United States and the World.  Views and opinions as diverse as their points of origin.  Powers of observation and writing never before brought together were no in one place, on one busy block.

     Who were they?  Superheroes? Power brokers? Yes! They were Bloggers! And they came to take Chicago!  Well, not actually that last part, but it sounds better yes?

     SOBCon08 had drawn bloggers of all types.  Bloggers of politics mixed with technology bloggers as well as mommy bloggers.  Each brought with them not just a desire to learn and be engaged for the weekend, but they came to share, to support, and to blog.  They came to take blogging up a notch.

     Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker assembled a crew of presenters for a human scale event and it was powerful.  Chris Brogan, Anita Bruzzese,  Chris Garret, David Bullock, Terry Starbucker, Brian Clark, Lorelle VanFossen, and Wendy Piersall talked and presented on blogging and business throughout the weekend.  More than that, they shared deeply about blogging and themselves.  Each poured out tips, tricks and heart during their presentations and off-stage as well.

     The SOBCon08 weekend was jam packed with business and blogging information, but also with fun and friends making.  Shashi Bellamkonda and I have been online friends for most of year but had never met.  Leave it to a blogging conference to us together.  Rick Mahn and I had also been online only contacts for quite a while, this weekend allowed us to share a great experience and become real friends. There was the boat ride, where I took this skyline shot, and enjoyed the music of Christine Kane, and the wonderful dinners with my blogger friends.

     Did I take anything away beyond that? More than I can absorb.  On the mental and supportive side, I realized I’m not alone out there, and these other bloggers, even the most successful ones, are only an email away.  I realized others, yes those big name ones too, struggle at times with their blogs and their businesses.  The support and encouragement doesn’t end with the weekend.  Becky McCray has organized some of us into a biz and blog support and mentoring circle.

     As part of the take away from the SOBCon08 conference, I’ll be changing up things on the blog.  It’ll be slow at first, but hopefully the improvements will be noticeable both to readers and to me.  Also, I’ll be formulating some business plans, goals and more.  Don’t think either that I’ll try to work in solitude.  You, the readers, and you, my fellow bloggers and biz folks, will be on the spot.  I’ll be asking you for guidance, reassurance, and support because of the respect and appreciation I have for you all.

     In summary, the weekend brought me more than I expected, and I can’t express enough in blog posts even how much so. While I make some attempts here though, I’d love to hear from you.

     How did SOBCon08 impact you, your blogging and your business? What will you change?  Or have you been to another conference recently that made a significant impact on your life?  Tell me about it!  I want you to share here, on your blog, or drop me a line.  Don’t blog? I’ll be happy to post your story here.

     Come, tell us about your experience.

SOBCon08 – Where I found more than a blogger

Shashi - geek, blogger, friend
Let me tell you about one of my favorite takeaways from SOBCon08. Shashi and I started out as on the edges of common technologies, now I feel like I’ve gained a friend for life.

It was a pleasure to meet and spend time with him this weekend. What better way to know a man than to share things together.

We shared – learning, laughter, fresh air, excitement, joy, a hug, the skyline of Chicago, we broke bread together, and shared a beer. What better ways to know a man.

What did you share at SOBCon08? What did you take away?

SOBCon Spotlight – Todd Jordan

Hey, that’s me!

     In these days before SOBCon, the team over there is shining the spotlight on some of the attendees.  Today is my luck day. Myself, along with a couple of others, have been given a bit of blog love there.

     Why not stop by the SOBCon blog and check out all of the great folks mentioned there.  Some of them you may already know, and if not, you’re in for a treat. Some of the best bloggers around are attending this one of a kind blogging conference.

   Thanks Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker.  Can’t wait to see you there.

Should Bandwith Be A Commodity or is it already?

     Melody, at the St. Louis Bloggers Guild, challenges us with the idea that bandwidth may soon become a commodity. The position is reflective of the growing battle between ISPs and big business and the none business user.  The much wrote about Comcast fiasco is but the most notable.

     The article contends that unless laws protecting net neutrality are put in place, many, including bloggers, may have more to think about than content alone.  Bandwidth may become a business expense.  I’d like to contend that for most full time bloggers, it already is.

     Many bloggers today aren’t just posting text.  The age of video blogging and podcasts is upon us.  Sure many of those files don’t have to be stored locally, but if not, and reliable hosting is required, the blogger ends up paying.  The question is not will it become a commodity, but when will tiered bandwidth come into play.

     Telcos already have on and off peak hours for phone calls, and it would appear their current bandwidth strategy would take them along the same path.  Why not charge more for high use during peak hours and a cheaper rate for off peak hours.  Why not charge more for based on domestic versus international traffic.  What’s to say that Comcast isn’t the only one already throttling bandwidth, and not just targeting file sharing.  Melody is right, bloggers might be next, but I’m willing to bet for some ISPs, that sort of traffic guidance is already in play.  If not at the ISP level, I’m willing to bet it’s already happening at many site hosting shops.  Not just cap on total use, but speed based on what your sites content is.

     Is there a law that says you have to advertise all of your products? What’s to keep Dreamhost or other hosts from putting silent caps in place for blogs, and not for businesses?

    Okay, maybe I smell dark shadows type stuff here, but mark my words, it’s already happening on a larger scale than we know.

Your ranting blogger… 

Do go read the original article on the St. Louis Bloggers Guild.

St. Louis Bloggers Guild – A Step Forward

Blog much? Well then you need to hear about this. St. Louis bloggers are joining together to form a first of it’s kind guild.  Writers have a guild, directors have guilds, so why not bloggers?

St. Louis Bloggers Guild is already drawing attention, with write ups in the local media, as well as a swarm of bloggers looking to join.  Why a guild? What’s it got to offer over something like a blog carnival or an online only blogging community?

The St. Louis bloggers Guild is not just about posting all on the same topic, or giving each other a pat on the back, though it can do that too.  It’s about informing, promoting, protecting, and yes, connecting.  Sound interesting yet?

The guild isn’t just about putting fingers to keys, and putting up the posts, it’s about forming a real community.  Not just faceless nicknames anymore, but folks you get to know in a real way.  There will be parties, conferences, blogging fests and more.  Yes even beer on occassion.  I mean heck, we are St. Louis, home of Budweieser!

St. Louis bloggers won’t be hemmed in either.  This isn’t about corralling folks and making them get in line.  It’s about a community hub, and it will take all types.  There’ll be blogs about St. Louis involved, and blogs about parenting, blogs about tech, and blogs about camping, even blogs about cupcakes.

So what’s stopping you from signing up today?  Hey, you can go visit the main page here, or go right to joining up here.

Want just a bit more incentive? How about joining several of us for a little mixer this Saturday night?  Yep, come meet some of us face to face and share a drink or an appetizer.  It’s a party at Atomic Cowboy in St. Louis.  The short story is be there at 6:30 PM. We’ll be the ones chatting it up and acting like bloggers.

Please come out and show your support or if you can’t make it, do drop by the guild website and visit.

See you around the net!

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Should You or Should You Not Submit Your Own Stuff?

Social Media Mom bring us one of the big questions of the day:

Should You or Should You Not Submit Your Own Stuff?

To summarize, she shares her feelings via quote:

I agree 100% with what Jack Spirko, from the Dallas Business and Marketing Blog says, “To me social networking has a greater future if we judge the content rather then intent“. Is it really that important who submits it? If you like it, you can Mixx it, Digg it, Stumble it, Sphinn it, or whatever. If you don’t, then by all means don’t vote for it and move on!

Oh, but if it were only that simple. Just share our best work and have folks vote on it. Many argue that the Internet already votes, simply count your page views and there you have it. If only that were true.

Posting your best stuff and hoping might be work if everyone on the Internet was aware of every blog post, news article, and web page in existence. Not only would they know of the existence, but know the complete URL, the language, and then have a browser that can read it. This doesn’t even cover corporate or nationwide blocks in place on Internet browsing.

You’ll say next perhaps that the best stuff still gets around. I wager you that there’s plenty of great stuff you’ve never seen and never will. There just isn’t time. No time, and tons of competition for people’s attention when they are online. There’s the latest crazy thing on YouTube, the cute dog pictures from Aunt Saddie and erotic fiction for others. Just how is one supposed to get squeezed into that?

If you were a store owner, or politician or author, then the answer is to talk about it, shout about it, and even take out huge ads on TV and radio. But if you’re a blogger? Well, don’t go telling folks, it just shows how selfish and self centered you are. It smacks of a big ego, or little concern for others. It reeks of neediness and attention starvation.

Dang, talk about something hanging over you head.  So then what should a blogger do?  Write great stuff and pray?  Should the blogger have to start turning out tons of content just to make sure they get search engine hits.  Or even rob their writing of its creativity or uniqueness for search engine hits?

It’s the same problem many authors have that don’t have a big firm to back them up, it’s hard to get noticed.  One innovate thing that’s occurring though is more authors are taking their books to the bloggers. They are emailing them, tweeting them, interviewing with them and more.

It’s obvious what happens if bloggers do the same thing with their blog though, it gets shot down quick.

What can we as bloggers do to help if we aren’t supposed to submit our own content for notice and sharing? One thing we can do is network to the high heavens.  We need to network like we mean it.  Note, networking <> shouting about your content, your brand or your hot boddy.  It means engaging people wherever they’re at, and getting to know each other.  This is a slow process and something to think of more as a long term investment.

Something else we can do?  Be remarkabled. Seth Godin talks about it all the time. Others live it all the time.  How can you and I be remarkable?  No ideas? Don’t feel bad, if you had them and executed on them, you’d already be remarkable.

Remarkable doesn’t have to be tough though.  You don’t need to write a book to be famous or noticed.  What you can best do to get noticed is be a generous giver.  The best thing is you don’t have to give money, or lots of expensive things.  The real key is to give without asking for anything in return.  You don’t have to ‘give’ in private either, even if you don’t brag.

I could write a ton about giving and giving honestly and feeling rewarded about it.  The key is to give your time most of all.  Take time to comment on other blogs.  Take time to email your contacts.  Take time to make conversation.  Take time to listen.  That last one counts more than all the others.  When people knw you’re listening, you suddenly become a lot more remarkable.

Social Media Mom ends her post like this:

What do you think about self submission? Should we or should we not submit our content to others, social sites etc.? I would love to know whether or not you think it is a good or bad thing to do and if so, why?

And I’m seconding her questions.  Don’t feel obligated to answer them here, but do take time to answer them for yourself. Cheers.

(PS do send me your best stuff to read, view, listen to.)

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Social Networks?

     Do we need fancy websites, new applications, and cool new gizmos to have social networks? One might think so in this day and age.  High school and college kids have one up on older folks here, the younger folks are painfully aware of their social networks.

     The tools we have today may seem like the end all of social networking, but networking has been a skill since there were more than two humans.  You and I are involved not just in networks enabled by Twitter or Facebook, but more likely, those tools support networks older than either one.

     In fact, the very tools many of us have integrated thoroughly into our lives, have become even less enablers to our networks, but perhaps barriers and resistors to the growth of those networks.  In the past, one simply became part of our networks by working at the same place, living in the same neighborhood, attending the same school, or shopping at the same local market.  Today, many of us don’t consider those very same folks to be part of our social network, even folks we spend 40 hours a week next to.

     Before I continue, I’m guilty of this same thing.  Not intentionally, but by default.  If people at work don’t make themselves more accessible than loaning me a pen, they’re pretty much out.  If my neighbor doesn’t borrow sugar or loan me their lawnmower, we’d hardly know their names.

     Now let’s assume the same neighbor signed up on Twitter, and somehow found out my Twitter ID, would that situation change?  Well it depends.  Is he a technofile? A photographer? Does he ooh and ah over the latest social media tool?  Ultimately, does he enable my life and success in some way.  If not? He’s likely just going to be someone that knows me and never engages with me, or vice versa. Wait, that’s much like our current arrangement.

    Magnify this situation to include the thousands of random people out there that might actually have some similar interests to you or I, but we’ve never met, never chatted, and never heard of them.  To make this more complicated, they are shy, or protective, or socially inept, so they don’t use even a name. Lots won’t have even a blog or some form of reference about themselves.  These are the people that want in our networks.

    These people, neighbors, strangers, spammers, odd followers and more want into our networks.  They follow us on Twitter, Utterz, Facebook and our blogs.  Some will track down our emails, and even rarer I hope, our phone numbers.  The contacts start showing up all over the place, first with comments, then emails, linking us or stealing our content, or even reaching us on the phone.  Some may just knock on our door here and there and follow quietly beside us.  But they all want in.

    My question though, even if we didn’t invite them or encourage them, and we don’t add them back, are they really outside our social network?  I’d contend that they are in our network, want them or no.  Oh, you and I may not engaged them, but they’re still there.  We can ignore them even, but we still notice them.  Our network notices them as well.  Heck, the blogosphere will notice them too.

    What should we do then? I say, other than the spammers and the really odd ones, why not cultivate them to become real contributing members of your inner circle?  They are already part of your life, why not make them a better part of your life.  Speak to them about the type of folks you like to socialize with, the type of people you want to do business with, and the ones you want to create art with.  Don’t give out your home address or anything but help them understand where your heart lives.  Let them know how they can be part of your success in work, play, and creation.  One can never have too much support.

     And the rest, the ones you can’t stomach, block the ones you can, and give little or no press to the rest.  Don’t blow your energy over them.

    Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about, and helped you realize that even folks on the edge of your life are in your networks, sometimes even unintentionally. Why not cultivate them to help move your life along?

     Who are you neglecting on the edges?


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Comment Moderation – What’s your plan?

 Moderation?Kurt Greenbaum at Virtual St. Louis has posted a thought piece on comment moderation. His take on that can be summed up by this quote.

I’ve always considered that a small price to pay for the instant gratification a reader can get by seeing a comment immediately.”

That’s a bold choice in these days where spam bots can quickly overrun a blog.  However, modern blogging software and hosting systems have become much better at sorting out spam comments.

The WordPress hosting service has captured hundreds of spam comments for my blogs. There have only been a handful of false positives where a true comment went to spam.

A bigger concern isn’t spam, but hateful or malicious comments.  In the case of Virtual St. Louis, a blog focused on a very opinionated community, it’s likely that the comments will get heated at times.  The question then becomes should the occasional over the top comment be allowed in order to reward the majority of commenters with seeing theirs right away.

Blogging tools offer various ways to moderate comments.  In the WordPress.com tools, the blogger can require all comments to be moderated, only first time commenters to be moderated, or no moderation to take place.  Also, the number of links in a comment can be set to trigger its moderation.

So far those options have worked well here at The Broad Brush, and apparently well enough at Virtual St. Louis.  As spammers get more sophisticated and our tolerances change, will these tools be enough?  Will blogs like Virtual St. Louis be able to keep their open comment policy?

What measures have you taken towards spam prevention and comment moderation at your blog? Are they working? Will they stand the test of time?