Is blogging making a comeback with the Millennials?

Posted by: on Apr 26, 2010 | No Comments

Pretty much ever since blogging started to take off, people have been discussing its pending demise – or at the very least, its relative decline in favor of Twitter and other types of short-form sharing.

And, anecdotally at least, it seems to me that long-form blogging is less of the centerpiece of the conversation for most of my extended social network than it was just a few years ago, and more of a compliment to the day-to-day (or second-to-second) sharing via Twitter and Facebook that now dominates.

So it’s interesting to note some new research pointing to the rise in popularity of blogging among the last group I would have expected – the Millennials.

Over 40% of the blog writers surveyed fell into the Millennial age group of 18-25, and why they are blogging hints at the advantage blogs still maintain over microblogging and social networking – it’s a platform for self-expression.

Video still trumps text for self-expression, but the technical and psychological barriers to jumping into videoblogging aren’t trivial, so it makes sense that “old-school” text-based blogging still has a home among those who are seeking an outlet for self-expression.

*Graphic source: eMarketer

On Old-School Web Content Curation

Posted by: on Nov 17, 2009 | No Comments

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few months (and really, years) about how content curation is the next wave of social media. The reasoning goes that with the massive rise in new information channels spewing a flood of content at consumers, we’re teetering in the midst of an attention crash of sorts.

Better content filtering – feed searches and such – is one way to cope, paired with dedicated tools and even people whose job it is to curate all that information into useful collections for the rest of us. The tools – social bookmarkers like Delicious for example – help everyone who uses them become a vast web of curators in effect. Newer tools like Alltop in effect attempt to curate blogs around selected topics. And link sharing via Twitter and Facebook are exploding the concept even further, with more focus on realtime push and less on the archiving and organizing aspect found in social bookmarking.

I’d like to highlight an older kind of Web content curation, that I think often gets left out of this conversation: the link blog. It wraps the “filtered and trusted firehose” style of link sharing found on Twitter with a touch of commentary and editorial that ads real value and context to those links.

By way of example, take two very popular blogs: Boing Boing and Daring Fireball. Another great tool for this sort of thing by the way is Tumblr, but I won’t dive into it here.

Boing Boing, kind of the granddaddy of all link blogs, bills itself as “A directory of wonderful things.” Which it truly is – it’s a firehose of content in its own right, but of organized content sprinkled with light editorial provided by interesting authors, serving as something of a guided tour to all the quirky parts of the Web.

Daring Fireball, the link-ish blog of John Gruber, in contrast is mostly focused on the Apple community and in particular the Apple developer community. Lots of small links, with a sentence or few of editorial, interspersed with a longer article here and there.

Neither blog is designed to really “curate” content for long term categorization and reference in the way a social bookmarking tool does, yet they do spew out links in much the way you’ll find on Twitter. The value, and the difference, lies in the commentary attached to each link, commentary coming from sources whose judgement and authority many people trust.

It’s because of this short form editorial, from authoritative authors, that they are both among my first stops in the morning. I trust the Boing Boing crew and Mr. Gruber to find and share interesting, relevant links and I enjoy the bits of commentary they provide on each.

In the current era of mass link sharing via social networks, Boing Boing and DF can appear to almost be anachronisms. After all, blogs are soooo 2007, right? But their continued success and relevance I think points to a larger point: everyone has their own preferences for how they consume drips from that grand firehose of Web content, and no one tool or format is the “right” one.

Some people prefer to consume curated content in 140 characters or less (Twitter), some want it only from close trusted friends and in lower volume (Facebook), and some enjoy it with a bit more commentary fed out via RSS readers (link blogs). Which is why I see a future filled with a variety of Web content curation tools and styles, and tend to discount all the frantic stories that surface about how the rise of App X will kill Apps Y, Z, and everything else for that matter. In the case of Web content curation, we have a wide variety of tools and styles already co-existing, as people select what best suits their needs and taste.

My endless quest for a blog editing client – back to MarsEdit

Posted by: on Sep 10, 2009 | 3 Comments

I’m still one of those bloggers who loves a good client-side blog editing tool. For a few years, as a serious PC user, it was Windows Live Writer, a fantastic (and free!) tool from the ex-Onfolio team when they joined Microsoft. It’s simple, intuitive, works well with all varieties of blog platforms, and had a nice plugin capability.

When I made the full time switch to Mac, Live Writer was the #1 piece of software I missed. The OSX options seemed, at the time, slim pickings: ecto, MarsEdit, or some browser-based options. I’ve since tried them all, and finally fallen back in love with the one I originally dismissed as too complex while paradoxically lacking in features: MarsEdit.

Why? Better media and Flickr support for starters. Tag and Tumblr support help. Also, it turns out I was just being lazy, and not really learning the power of the customizable markup options.

See, MarsEdit provides a kick butt live preview window, but no true WYSIWYG editor. Adding a bulleted list is still fairly painful as a result, but the ability to fine tune your markup is something I’ve come to adore (as do others). No more hunting about in a WYSIWYG editor trying to figure out why the hell my blockquote now indents three times instead of one, or why an extra word is captured in a hyperlink.

Also, I contribute to (at least) four blogs on a semi-regular basis, and the ability to bounce across all of them, adding posts on the fly, is a breeze. That alone pretty much sold me.

Finally, the guys at Red Sweater seem to be committed to updating the app, unlike so many abandoned blog editing tools for both Windows and OSX. To keep them at it, I gladly contributed my 30 bucks.

Are there shortcomings? Sure – the image editing needs some work, with more flexibility around in-post resizing (I have to use ImageWell for that right now). But nothing that blocks my workflow or forces time-sucking workarounds.

So hats off to Red Sweater – if you blog on a Mac, go grab yourself a copy of MarsEdit.

WordPress Commenting Evolved – Echo, Disqus, and IntenseDebate

Posted by: on Sep 2, 2009 | 40 Comments

It seems the era of boring blog comment sections is over – from WordPress introducing threaded comments to CommentLuv, Gravatars, and tweetbacks, there are more tools than ever to liven up your post comments and get the whole “community fu” flowing strong.

If you really want to throw caution to the wind, you can dive into one of the very cool embedded, external comment systems such as Disqus, IntenseDebate, and Echo.

What are they? Broadly speaking, they are all hosted web services that attempt to link comments by individuals across the blogosphere, embedded in your WordPress install with a plugin. They also, to varying degrees, attempt to expand on the idea of ping/trackbacks – links to your post from other blogs – and display all inbound links from across the social media landscape, such tweets, social bookmarks, and so on.

They also make commenting a bit more fun, and coherent, for your readers. Using a single sign on they can track their own comments across the blogosphere – or at least, across any other blogs that happen to be using the same commenting system (maybe someone can create a tool to integrate your comments into one viewable pane?).

I should note – this isn’t a review post, as I haven’t used all three systems enough to make a properly informed judgement. This is just to highlight three alternatives to help make your blog comments a bit more interactive.

However, based on the various reviews I’ve seen, the cheat sheet version based on my own quick judgement is:

  • Disqus: Most established player, in wide use, new updates. Works decently well on my current blog.
  • IntenseDebate: Owned by the guys who built WordPress, so lots of hope for future development, though enough complaints on current stability to give me pause.
  • JS-Kit Echo: Newest entrant, loaded with interesting functionality and a clean UI, though this one is a “premium” (you pay) plugin.

Disqus

From my incredibly unscientific scanning of the Web, armed with patented Mark I Eyeballs, Disqus is the “grandpa” of the crowd, having launched first. It offers very easy integration with WordPress, a nice moderation screen (both in WP dashboard and external), and a fantastic sidebar. I use it on my Social Mallard blog and have seen it in heavy rotation throughout the blogosphere, though that may reflect their early entrance into the market.

The Disqus team launched a recent update (August 25, 2009), effectively splitting the service into two parts: Disqus Comments, the comment management system for bloggers, and Disqus Profile, a separate comment management system just for commenters.

IntenseDebate

A relatively recent (one year ago) acquisition by the team at Automattic, I’ve been hesitant to try it on my blogs due to some bloggers having significant challenges with it (example) To be fair though, I’ve come across a lot of bloggers who love it and prefer it over Disqus. To each their own.

The fact that ID is now run by the guys at Automattic inspires a bit of confidence, as they put out some world class products.

See the complete feature list.

Echo (or JS-Kit Echo)
The new kid on the blog, Echo looks to be off to a promising start. One nice upside is CommentLuv now works with Echo.

See the complete feature list – it’s fairly exhaustive.

A big difference between Echo and the others? Echo isn’t free – $12 a month for the “Live” version, and I can’t locate a totally free option.