The neat thing about blogging design…

…is that if you don’t like the theme you picked yesterday you can change it with a click of the mouse today. This is NOT my new design. It’s yet another way I can mess with the “brand” I’ve built. I want to destroy it, to allow me to play around and find something fresh. How’s this one? Anyway, today I’m on a plane to Phoenix to hang out with some cool geeks. More later as we continue building this out.

This theme is one of the pre-built ones in WordPress.com. If you don’t like it, we can pick another and keep trying them as Rackspace’s designers work on my new design, which will come up as part of the launch of Building43, the community for people fanatical about the Internet comes alive.

Apture: demo of cool service to build "super links"

As a blogger we have just one choice to build a link. Write an A HREF tag which builds a link like this one to Apture’s home page.

But Tristan Harris had a better idea. What if bloggers could build much better links to all sorts of things that could be opened up right on the page. Videos. Photos. Multiple articles. Etc.

Here he shows me how it works and how the New York Times is using it to make their pages more useful. By doing that content sites and blogs also keep you around longer and give you more opportunities to see their ads, so everyone wins.

This is very cool and I’ll be using this technology after I get my blog moved over to its own server (should be in the next week).

Doing comments first on Twitter with Twickie

OK, so, what is the tool I was using earlier in the evening to get lots of responses from my Twitter followers and copy and paste them into my blog? Chris Pirillo’s Twickie.

How does it work?

I ask a question on Twitter.

People respond.

I log into Twickie. It lets me see the tweets I’ve posted. I click on a down arrow to see all responses.

I copy the HTML out of Twickie and I paste it into my blog editor’s HTML mode.

Real easy. Free. And demonstrates how you can use a crowd to do research.

Earlier tonight Chris told me it lets him write blog posts “backward.” See in the old world we’d write our opinions, then you’d comment. In Pirillo’s world you comment first, then he writes his blog post.

It’s a weird world and it’s Friday night, so I went with it and was amazed at the responses I got in just a few short minutes.

Thank you for participating. I’ll try other questions soon, I don’t want to overdo it.

Happy sixth birthday WordPress!

Six years ago WordPress was born, according to Matt Mullenweg who founded and runs the company that makes it, Automattic. My blog here is hosted on WordPress.com and I couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait to see what Matt does in the next six years. He has a few ideas, as he told me recently in an interview I did with him.

Is text really king over video? Compare the results

Steve Rubel postulates that text is a lot better than video on the web.

Oh, really? Well, explain this graph from Compete.com that compares fastcompany.tv (my video blog) to techmeme (which only displays text and penalizes videos).

Truth is that if you want to build an audience on the web you must use EVERY tool available.

And I’m not taking that advice yet. Yesterday I joined Digg (I never used it much until yesterday). Tomorrow, YouTube (SEO’s tell me that doing YouTube well helps your search engine ranking a lot — Chris Pirillo has been playing YouTube like a fiddle and he’s rocking and rolling everywhere).

He’s right. Text is easier to consume. Easier to search. All that stuff. But here, let’s try something. You take 1,000 words to explain to me what the next game from EA looks like. I’ll do it in a minute or two of video. The video will beat your blog every time. Every time!

Text may be king, like Rubel says, but video is godly. My traffic curves prove that.

And we won’t even get into how Gary Vaynerchuk is using Wine Library TV — there is no way he would be even 1/100th as successful by doing just a text blog. Speaking of Gary, Troy Malone videoed our presentation we gave at CES last week about how to build a successful blog in a bad economy. Thanks for doing that! Lots of people said it was really great.

Did I harm my blog by FriendFeeding this year?

Since I’ve been blogging eight years this month I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog and how I want to do things differently in 2009.

I told Mike Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, that I wonder if I’ve made smart time investments in 2008 by spending so much time on Twitter and friendfeed. Yeah, I knew about the Chinese earthquake before pretty much anyone, and 45 minutes before CNN reported it, but doing that required being online with Twitter open late at night after most of you had gone to sleep or were watching some TV.

He just posted that I need a friendfeed intervention, which is why I’m writing this post.

About a month ago I asked people over on FriendFeed and the comments came in hot and heavy. Of course most of them thought I did a good thing by spending so much time on FriendFeed this year.

How much time? I told Arrington tonight that I bet it’s seven hours a day or more. I started in late February. So, that’s around 2,000 hours. What did I get for my 2,000 hour investment this year?

22,997 followers.
6,841 comments. (These are blogs and items I had something to say about, so I left a comment on them).
13,078 likes. (These are blogs and items made by other people that I wanted to share with you).
I manually followed 5,405 people. (You can see all the content they generate in real time here).

Anyway, what did I give up by spending time on Twitter and friendfeed?

  1. A few of my friends think I am not as good a thought leader anymore because they don’t get as many long posts as I used to do.
  2. If you check Compete.com you’ll see my overall traffic went down about 14% this year while FriendFeed’s traffic went up 4,056%.
  3. I don’t get any money from friendfeed, while on my blog I do sell ads now.
  4. I’m not breaking as many stories anymore so I’m showing up on TechMeme less and less.
  5. Arrington himself told me he is reading me less on my blog, although lots of the “A list” crowd have been showing up on friendfeed now that it has hit a certain audience size and is starting to show up on their referral logs.

What did I gain by being on friendfeed and Twitter?

  1. I now get a much wider-range of news and am available to a wider range of people.
  2. My words now get indexed by the two most popular “real-time web” search engines: Twitter Search and friendfeed search. I know people who get their news by visiting Twitter search and looking at what news is “trending,” or becoming more popular.
  3. I am now part of the conversation in a way that I’d never be if I were just blogging. Seth Godin, for instance, only blogs and he rarely gets discussed on Twitter or friendfeed. If he were active he’d be discussed 25x more.
  4. I’ve made a lot of friends that are just reading me on twitter, I’ve met many people at Tweetups and the like that I’d never have met if I weren’t so active.
  5. By being active I’ve been quoted in countless articles about Twitter or friendfeed, which helps me too.
  6. Because I listen to the conversation I am getting better video interviews. Compete.com shows that FastCompany.TV is growing nicely this year and has taken up the slack for my blog. Add that into all my new readers on Twitter and friendfeed and I’m happy about my total readership. Seagate deserves a lot of thanks there for sponsoring FastCompany.TV back when there were no viewers.
  7. I now have a new news source that other bloggers won’t have: a crowd of 5,400 people who are bringing me the best news from around the web in real time. Already I’m seeing stuff there that will turn into blog posts and insights that other people aren’t seeing. Because I’ve build relationships with many of these people over the past year they call me and warn me about important news before they call other people. This “funnel” of news could be a sizeable advantage for someone trying to compete in a very competitive space.
  8. I now have a list of 23,000 people on friendfeed and 44,692 on Twitter that I can show potential sponsors. Before all I could say is my monthly uniques.
  9. In friendfeed Mike Arrington has 15,108 followers and I have 22,999. Mike has a LOT more blog readers than I have, so he should have dramatically more followers than I have on friendfeed. But by participating in these services I have collected more subscribers. Do they offset the same number of blog readers I’d have if I spent so much time blogging instead of hanging out on friendfeed? That’s the question that got Mike and I to talk.

Why does this all matter? Well, if you are going to do this as a business you’ve got to prove how many readers you have and demonstrate both audience size as well as influence.

The other thing that advertisers are asking me for is quantitative data about who is reading me. Some companies now don’t want to reach geeks, for instance. So, they are looking at your social networks to see what kind of audience you’ve attracted.

So, what do you think? Do I need a friendfeed intervention? Looking forward to having a good conversation. Of COURSE we are talking about this on friendfeed. In fact, in multiple places. :-)

Why blogging comments suck

The other day, Gary Shapiro, the guy who runs the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, dropped by and left a comment here. There were a few problems:

1. My commenting system caught his comment in moderation, so people didn’t see it posted until I took it out of moderation right now.
2. No one probably knows who Gary is and thinks he’s just another random commenter. Some comments ARE more important than others, but there’s really no way for me to point out Gary’s comment without doing a new blog post. Even then, if you happen only to see the post that Gary commented on you’d never know that Gary’s comment deserves more attention than the other 54 comments left there.

How do you fix this? Not easily. I wish there were a system where I could tell my readers when a comment came in that deserves a lot more attention than the others. Also, I wish we could see the social network of the people commenting (I’d love to have their Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed networks show up linked into their comment somehow and also have warnings when people leave me comments that have a huge amount of social capital, like Gary does).

How did I know who Gary Shapiro was? I met Gary once and have heard him speak. His comment gives a hint at what he does, but his comment that he “runs the show” could be easily missed by an untrained eye.

Anyway, I’m interviewing Tim O’Reilly this afternoon (leave questions I should ask him here on this FriendFeed cluster) and I’ll definitely ask him about how we can improve our interaction systems on the web to better expose those who have real impact on all of our lives.

Thanks Gary for dropping by and defending trade shows and I’ll see you at CES.