BBS05 – Wednesday

blog business summit 2005 blog business summit 2005

The Blog Business Summit is actually on Thursday and Friday, but this afternoon there was an introductory session on blogging for business, led by Dave Taylor.

I’m not in the core target audience for this session, since I’m already involved in various blogging projects, but thought it would be interesting to talk with people and to hear their questions, concerns, and goals with respect to blogging.

It’s also useful to hear someone else try to explain blogs, RSS, web services, et al. I regularly find myself searching for a common starting context when talking about these topics with people who aren’t already somewhat involved in internet and web culture, especially if they’re from non-technology businesses. It’s remarkable that the tools have become as widespread as they are, given the impenetrable names.

I made good use of the free wireless service provided by AnchorFree. They’re running a captive portal that requires registration, so you’ll need to sign up for an account, but it’s nice to have. My notebook picked up three access points, all at high signal strength, probably installed in the room somewhere. Logged the location in Plazes.

Wirleess performance was okay to sluggish, I’m sure it’s a bit overloaded; something like half the people in the room had notebook computers. My session got dropped a few times, which reset my SSH sessions and required logging in on AnchorFree again using the browser. Lots of continuous partial attention going on in that room. Plus a few fully distracted people trying to get their wireless connections going. Perhaps they should hire those blog outsourcing guys.

This post is tagged (bbs05). Dave mentioned in his talk that he doesn’t like them, and thinks they’ll go away as search engines improve. I partially agree. User tags don’t scale well and in their present incarnation are highly vunerable to spam, but within relatively small communities, they can be an effective supplement to normal search engines. (Example – I could tag a collection of poetry as “haiku”, or “cinquain”, making it visible where the raw text might otherwise be difficult to locate through search.)

The coffee largely ran out after the break, hopefully they’ll have a larger supply tomorrow.

Outsource Your Blog

I had been speculating on something like this after reading an article last month about outsourcing personal website maintenance to India.

via Marginal Revolution, Content to Go

As I write this entry my partner Jeff is in the air on the way to our office in Shanghai. What Jeff and I are doing is simple but as far as I know we are the first. We are outsourcing blogs to China.

Our general business model is a two tiered effort to hire Chinese citizens to write blogs en masse for us at a valued wage. The first tier is to create original blogs. These blogs will pop up in various areas of the net and appear to the unknowing reader to be written by your standard American. Our short term goal for these original blogs is to generate a steady stream of revenue through traditional blog advertising like google adwords. We estimate that our current blogforce of 25 can support around 500 unrelated blogs. Hopefully a few of those will be hits. The long term goal is to generate a large untraceable astroturfing mechanism for launching of various products. When a vendor needs to promote a new product to the internet demographic we will be able to create a believable buzz across hundreds of ‘reputable’ blogs and countless message boards. We can offer a legitimacy to advertisers that doesen’t exist anywhere else.

The second tier of our plan is a blog vacation service where our employees fill in for established bloggers who need to take a break from regular posting. As all bloggers know, an unupdated blog is quickly forgotten. For a nominal fee we can provide seamless integration of filler.

I’m not entirely sure that the project is real, they claim to have raised $5 million US and the domain was just registered 3 days ago, but this caught my eye because I think there are some real possibilities for something like this.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with commercial blogging or professional blogging. However…their plan calls for deliberate misrepresentation of commercial interests as personal ones, on a large scale. This could be blog spam taken to the next level.

If they’re really heading off to put together an offshored blog content network, I think it could be done without heading straight for the “astroturf” market, which might give it a slower start but longer legs.

In my quick take on this idea, I’d probably choose India or Phillipines over China for basic English language skills, since the target audience is in the US, and have content editors with actual domain knowledge working with lower cost writers. This might not work for simulating teen LiveJournal sites, but should fit pretty well for topical blogs of most sorts. Hmm. That sounds like the direction the newspaper and magazine business is already heading…

Update 08-19-2005 – Followed up with more comments, plus ideas on how to build the evil astroturfing network in a new post.

Adsense

I’m doing a little experimenting with AdSense. So far most of my pages come up with ads for “Start your blog now” or “Sexy Girls & Sexy Guys”. It’s interesting to see which posts trigger a keyword match. I have observed a few posts that have switched from generic blog ads to a topical ad after a followup visit from the Mediapartners-Google crawler. You’d think that a post on the Blackdog Linux Server, the Yahoo-Alibaba deal, or visiting the Mona Lisa at the Louvre would trip a keyword or two.

The banners are only on the single post templates at the moment, so you’ll need to click on a post to see them. There’s also a set of vertical text ads at the bottom of the sidebar. I can tell I’m probably going to end up starting on a round of site revisions by the time I’m done with this, although I’m just interested in getting a better handle on the advertising and affiliate space at the moment.

Update: 08-15-2005 23:58 – At least this post has gotten tagged with Adsense ads. It will be interesting to see which pages actually trigger clickthroughs, vs which pages get reasonable keyword tags from Adsense.

Blog Business Summit

Later this week I’ll be at the Blog Business Summit in San Francisco. A discounted registration for WordPress users is available.

There’s also a WordPress update released, 1.5.2, with bug and security fixes since 1.5.1.3. It’s not a platform for everyone, but I’ve been very pleased with the high level of support, technical flexibility, and the active developer and user communities that have evolved around WordPress in the past couple of years.

I enjoy the option of changing whatever I like in the system, but also enjoy not needing to do so most of the time.

Update 2005-08-14 17:48 – A bigger discount is available for Blogger users! The WordPress discount is $400, the Blogger discount is $500. Hmm.

London 7-7-2005

It’s near the end of the day here in California. All day today I’ve been getting regular updates on this morning’s terrorist bombings in London, and aside from general anger at the attackers, and sympathy and concern for the citizens of London, I’m also just realizing that I haven’t had the television on once, nor had the impulse to go check. For me, it has been irrelevant as a news source today.

There is a huge amount of 1st person content – blog postings, photos, audio, and probably video by now. None of it scrubbed for journalistic accuracy, of course, but presenting a collective, subjective view of the situation in a more timely and compelling way than what might otherwise be presented through the conventional media, and providing a vast pool of source material and leads to conventional media journalists. Tonight and tomorrow there will probably be some thoughtful analysis from the news services, but blogging and the internet are a perfect fit for news events in flux.

There have been updates all day on a current events entry on Wikipedia, and a blizzard of entries turning up through Technorati and other blog search engines. Updates from organized news sources are turning up continously on Google News and others.

There’s a good round up posted now at the Wall Street Journal (free section).

I once spent some time in London near the Russell Square station, commuting on the tube every day while I was there. That bit of experience makes the first hand accounts of people there now that much more vivid to me, and the attacks that much more personal.

I think Johnnie Moore’s summary of comments from Andrew Sullivan and Tim Worstall captures a slice of the mood over there.

Sullivan:
Brits regard the best response to outrage to carry on as if nothing has happened. Yes, they will fight back. But first, they will just carry on as normal. Right now, a million kettles are boiling.

Moore:
I’m not drinking tea these days, but I think I’ll boil the kettle anyway.

See also: reader submitted comments to the BBC web site.

Extisp.icio.us – map of del.icio.us tags with images

From the Extisp.icio.us site by Kevan Davis:

extisp.icio.us images displays a random Yahoo images search result for each of a user’s tag words (excluding those which they’ve only ever used once). Despite the best intentions of the Yahoo API, and extisp.icio.us’s further attempts at filtering, however, some tags will occasionally be assigned images which are not work safe.

See extisp.ici.o.us and a corresponding Flickr group.

Yahoo buys Blo.gs, Dialpad

Couple of interesting announcements on the infrastructure and services front at Yahoo today.

Jim Winstead (founder / operator of blo.gs) writes:

the sale of blo.gs has been completed, and i’m proud to announce that yahoo! has acquired the service. as of right now, give or take a few minutes, yahoo! is running blo.gs.

this is the sort of good home that i was looking for — yahoo! obviously has the resources to run and improve blo.gs in pace with the incredible growth of blogs (and syndication in general), and in talking with them it was also clear that we had some of the same vision for the future of the service and the ping/notification infrastructure.

News.com, see also Dialpad Q&A and more at News.com:

Internet portal giant Yahoo has acquired Dialpad, a 6-year-old provider of Internet phone services. The acquisition, which was announced on Dialpad’s Web site, will place Yahoo in direct competition with traditional phone companies such as SBC, as well as Net phone providers like Skype and Vonage.

…it’s unclear what the Dialpad acquisition means to Yahoo’s longstanding relationship with regional dial-up and broadband service provider SBC. Yahoo and SBC have a partnership providing Yahoo-branded broadband access through SBC’s telephone lines. With Yahoo now offering voice calling services, it will be competing with SBC in the voice market–over SBC’s own phone lines.

No terms disclosed for either deal. Dialpad has around 40 employees, blo.gs is just Jim on his own(!). I suspect blo.gs will become a lot more usable and turn up in some interesting applications soon at its new home.

Update 2005-06-15 21:24: more on Dialpad at Om Malik’s

Update 2005-06-15 21:58: comments and links on blo.gs from Scoble

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