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December 2004 Archive

When did I become an agent?

posted by DL Byron on December 29, 2004

David Byrne, writing about agents in his blog (December 6 post), asks, “When did I become an agent?” Byrne continues to compare agents to a Philip Dick world and how damn scary that is. I covered agents in my, You can’t front on that post and Jason Calacanis posted BzzAgent: What people are really saying and BzzAgents Suck.

As Nat Ives writes for the NY Times, the Determined Detractor is the flip side of blog marketing. In one form or another, shills have always pitched product. The risk of an agent-type program is that once discovered, determined detractors will slam your company. Fortune’s article, Why There’s No Escaping the Blog, covers how a product can be boosted or destroyed.

One of Marqui’s goals for their Blogosphere program was to “engage the nerds” and that’s been a success. There’s been a boost (see my post on Google Suggests) and at the same time public detractors, as Stowe Boyd documents and Tony Walsh deconstructs.

The difference between agents and blogging for Marqui is that there’s no deception about the agenda. There should be no question as to when a blog is an agent or not. Despite the detractors, Marqui is engaged. They’re not hiding behind a Kid Halloween or receiving secret messages from VALIS.

Later this week, Clip-n-Seals will be available on Amazon.com. We’ve been quietly working on that for the past month. We could ask our friends to post positive product reviews, but we won’t do it because that could backfire and cause us pain. We will blog it, promote it, and let our customers speak for themselves.

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Google Suggests More Blogging

posted by DL Byron on December 25, 2004

Google Suggests Scott and I have been talking to the press lately about business blogging -- the articles are forthcoming -- and the reporters always ask about metrics. I usually describe how a market found us on Google, our response to that market, how we did it, Google loves blogging, and more. Now, I'm using the Google Suggest beta to offers a quick view of the effectiveness of blogging. As you type into the form field, Google will offer suggestions with the amount of results. Typing ahead on "Clip and Seal" returns 429K results. Not bad at all when you consider we spent about zero in marketing.

I've also been asked a lot about Marqui's Blogosphere program. Once we get past the paid to post part, I explain that the program is about search engine optimization. In 3 weeks of the program, Google Suggest returns

  • 3,900 hits on Marqui CMS
  • 5,110 hits on Marqui Blog

Impressive returns that will continue to grow as they spend much more than the nearly zero we spent. Now, ironically, Marqui just released an SEO Marketers Guide (an how it applies to a CMS), yet fails to discuss how Google's page rank works, which can be found in their press kit.

Apparently, the white paper writers at Marqui aren't talking to the bloggers and don't get how blogs work with Google. For reference, here's a good overview on blogging and Google.

Marqui has a company blog about to launch and it'll be interesting to see if they follow up on blogging and SEO. To date, it's already been successful for them in regards to the blogosphere. The next phase will be getting their page rank up on terms like CMS and Communication Management System.

Google suggests more blogging.

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Riding Las Vegas

posted by DL Byron on December 24, 2004

Redrock You don't know a town 'till you ride through it. Vegas was a miserable ride of strip malls, side streets, heavy traffic, horrible tasting water and urban decay until we got out of the city and into Red Rock Canyon. Once there, we rode a scenic, curvy, and hilly 13 mile loop with a fast descent back into town. Just like our visit to the Hoover Dam, the serenty of Red Rock Canyon is another stark contrast to Vegas, especially to the clattering and smoky casinos.

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No Lump of Coal for Movable Type

posted by DL Byron on December 23, 2004

An Update and Apology

Winged Figures of the Republic MT responds to comment spam with an update and apology - there's an MT blacklist update as well. Thanks MT and happy holidays.

Pam and I are finishing up our vacation; waiting at LAS for a delayed plane, feeling much more relaxed. I'll apply the MT updates across our sites when I get back and see how it goes. Considering comment spam, Timothy Appnel posts his thoughts and Jay Allen responds with hopeful thoughts.

As Tim notes, "Blogging is at a Crossroads," in more ways than comment spam. It's also at a crossroads as an application. An example is a very useful comment status code (none, closed, open) posted by Todd Dominey from an email conversation he had with Ben Trott. I found it randomly in a related search for comment spam solutions. The problem is that I'd never seen that code before. It's not on MT's site, in their manual, not in a knowledge base, or a FAQ, or available from tech support -- it's floating out there in the blogosphere and in MT developer's heads.

Googling for code and hoping for a solution is not sustainable when you blog commercially for clients. Searching through forums is not any better.

My holiday wishes, in regards to blogging, is for a Movable Type Developer Network (MTDN), the collected code of MT bloggers hosted by MT. There's a start with the Six Apart Professional Network, but it's not there yet. I learned that while struggling with the premature end of script headers error.

The Winged Figures

The photo is one of the Winged Figures of the Republic from Hoover Dam. The figures stand firmly guarding the flagpole and express, "the immutable calm of intellectual resolution, and the enormous power of trained physical strength, equally enthroned in placid triumph of scientific accomplishment." I realized later, as we drove back into the excesses of Vegas that the Hoover Dam was the most powerful example of form follows function I'd ever seen. It was as if we had walked onto the set of Fritz Lang's Metropolis and observed the streamlined shapes, the smooth, curving surfaces of the spillway, and the space-age industrialism.

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Vaca in Vegas, MT Screed

posted by DL Byron on December 18, 2004

From Vegas

Death Valley With Clip-n-Seal's office and order fulfillment center closed the week of December 20th, Pam and I are off to ride our bicycles and relax in Vegas.

I may write from Vegas, splurge for lap dances, eat too much, watch 15 seconds of hotel-room porn at a time before I have to pay for it, or do nothing at all. I'm not sure yet. Pam and I plan little when vacationing. We will ride Death Valley, Red Rock Canyon, and possibly Lake Mead.

MT screed

I do know that I will not think about comment spam or waste any more dev time on MT Blacklist.

Yesterday I updated MT Blacklist and it stopped working. No good reason for it to fail. It just stopped and now throws premature script errors. It can't find Storables (a perl module), but it's there. So, after hours of tweaking, I'm done with it. Whatever Movable Type has planned, I will say that suggesting that MT users update our sites to dynamic publishing is unworkable. You can't go back to clients and say, "hey, I need to redo the site to this php thingy, cause spam sucks and the solution I built for you is broken."

Sure, I could do that on my personal site, but why would I want to? I have 10 million other things things to get done. I don't know if MT has ignored the problem, has that team of 50 working hard on it, or what. I give props to Jay Allen for his efforts, his hard work, and I'm an MT evangelist, but if MT is to mature into a commercial app, they need to offer a solution ASAP. Expecting their customers to respond with development time to their failure to address spam is not acceptable. What's especially annoying is that when you ping tech support on it, they say they can't help because it's 3rd-party app, but Jay Allen works there now.

I don't know if the blogosphere has given MT a pass on this problem, I haven't poured over RSS feeds all month (side note on that, besides Scoble, I think few bloggers actually do read RSS), but do know I don't blame the spammers. That's like blaming sharks for hunting or hackers for hacking. The spammers found an exploit and are exploiting it. It's MT's job to fix it. Not mine.

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You can’t front on that

posted by DL Byron on December 15, 2004

Earlier in the week, Marc Canter asked in a email thread, “what’s a BzzzAgent?” and I thought of what Scott and I said during our interview last month with the North Jersey Record (registration required) about blogging Clip-n-Seal

  • “What’s important about blog marketing is you can’t fake it,” said D.L. Byron
  • “You have to be who you are, or you’re going to get spotted.”
  • “We want to sort of have more of a personal conversation with our market, and blogs are really sort of a personal medium,” said Scott Benish

Richard Murray examines Bzzz Agents at length, comparing them to corporate shills, and concludes that he’s skeptical and “it feels dirty.”

In a similar post, Peter Merholz writes about his disappointment with Tivo’s, “bizarre marketroid speak.”

For companies learning this new blogging medium, it’s that whole “conversation with your market,” thing from the Cluetrain Manifesto. Your market isn’t going to converse with you very long if you’re a lying shill, a marketing robot, or a PR flak (or all three combined).

If you’re going to market in the blogosphere, you’ve got to have cred. Marqui has cred because they’re transparent. Scoble vis-a-vis Microsoft has cred because he's transparent. Same thing with GM Small Block, Skybox, and Stonyfield blogs.

When it comes to the blogosphere, you can’t front on that.

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Chock full of Blog Goodnesss

posted by DL Byron on December 10, 2004

Angel The Blog Business Summit sessions are getting finalized, most are up now, and 37 Signals announced a Seattle Building of Basecamp workshop the same week as the summit. That’s going to be a week chock full of blog goodness.

So far, Robert Scoble is going to keynote and these sessions have been finalized

  • Building Traffic: Posting isn’t Enough — Molly Holzschlag
  • The Entreprenurial Blog: Monetizing Your Interests — Brian Alvey & Glenn Fleishmann
  • Picking a Platform: Blogging Engines Compared — Molly Holzschlag & DL Byron
  • Writing for Blogs, Robert Scoble
  • Good Blog Design: Speed, Accessability, Transparency, and Clarity — DL Byron & TBA
  • Corporate Blogging: Strategy and Policy — Lenn Pryor
  • Dealing with Bloggers: Partnering and Defense Strategies — Robert Scoble

The remaining sessions and speakers will be announced soon.

If you're plan on attending, and I hope you do, you can get all blogged up on Monday and Tuesday, chill on Wednesday, then roll right into the Basecamp workshop.

Tip: a few blocks from the event, atop a burned-out building, you'll find the Angel of the City pictured above.

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Our Fast 50 Entry

posted by DL Byron on December 08, 2004

Scott got our 2005 Fast 50 entry in, with two days to go! The Fast 50 is Fast Company magazine's annual readers' challenge, a worldwide search for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We think Clip-n-Seal is extraordinary and sent our entry in.

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It's raining sideways - ha-ha dance

posted by DL Byron on December 08, 2004

It’s raining sideways here in Seattle and I’m doing a little ha-ha dance about IBM. That’d be computers as a commodity v. designing products people love. I thought of instant messaging all my PC-owning friends about it, but that’d wouldn’t be mindful. One of them is still trying to create a photo slideshow with his PC - he’s on week 3. Earlier this year, both Jobs and Ives noted that market share isn’t their concern, instead designing good products is.

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David Suzuki Foundation

posted by DL Byron on December 07, 2004

Dr. David Suzuki was on KUOW's Weekday program last week. I listened intently because it also happened to be the same week that I started blogging about Marqui. The Suzuki Foundation is pushing for a radical change in the ways we use the forest and Marqui's Communication Management System helps them get that done.

So what is Marqui's CMS

Marqui's system manages communications. A user enters a communications piece and picks what mediums to distribute it to and for how long. The piece can be repurposed to email, newsletter, print, and a website. It can also be rolled back, versioned, and audited. It's an "enter once, use often" system for business communications.

what does the Suzuki Foundation do with it?

The Suzuki Foundation uses Marqui to manage proactive online communications on their web site and in e-mail newsletters. Visitors to their website subscribe and receive personalized funding request emails based on the interests. The communications are time-based using Marqui's Calendar of Events module. That means, they can roll out events based on a calendar and synchronize them to the mailing lists and their website. Ok, that all sounds good. Here are the stats:

  • Time to implement site: 3 weeks
  • Number of pages on site: 1200
  • Number of e-mails per week: 40,000
  • Number of interactive content contributors: 24

Why does that matter?

Marqui rapidly transformed the Suzuki Foundations' complex communications to their members and use it to raise big money. It works. They like it and use it.

Until recently, in my career, I've never seen a content management system work. That changed with Blogging and I posted on blogging the intranet earlier this year. In all the marketing hype, the fact that blogging is a simple and effective content management system is sometimes lost. Blogging works because it's so simple. Marqui isn't a blogging app, but it is simple to use and if your CMS isn't easy, people won't use it.

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Tut is Back

posted by DL Byron on December 05, 2004

I downloaded King Tut from iTunes for the kids. They love it and laugh every time I play it. In an NYTimes editorial today, Steve Martin heralds the arrival of Tut and notes that, "it does strike me as ironic that the song has become the standard reference work on the subject of King Tut." Our daughter has been studying Tut in school, on Google, and World Book. I hope she includes the song in her report and maybe her and schoolmates will perform it at a school play. Of course, I'll be sure to note that Tut was not "born in Arizona," and he did not live in a "condo made of stone-a."

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Cap'n on Patrol

posted by DL Byron on December 04, 2004

Cappy A few books just fell off the book case in my office and Cap’n attacked them with “a quickness.” Landing on top of the books, she did a rapid sniffing, and then returned to her bed looking back once to be sure they weren’t coming at her from behind. Cap’n sleeps under my desk most of the day and it’s good to know she’s on guard — no books are gonna bust up on her.

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The blogosphere needs paid bloggers

posted by DL Byron on December 04, 2004

“I get paid to blog” has been a great conversation starter at holiday parties this week. I lead in with that, get their attention, and then hit the whole blogging evangelism elevator pitch — a conversation with your market, blah blah, mow mow. However there’s always a pause on who would be that voice and I realized that the blogosphere needs paid bloggers, to give a voice to all those blogs. I joked about it IM converstations, and it’s pretty funny, but it won’t be long before a professional group of bloggers emerges. The group could be called the Blog Authors Guild (BAG), a riff on SAG, the Screen Actors Guild. When someone needs a blogger (corporate, tech, music, more), there’s a group of professionals ready to go. The joking continued with BAG hags, who would be blogger groupies and blog about the bloggers.

Where others are viewing Marqui’s Blogosphere Program as product placement, I don’t think it is. On this site, it’s a sponsored blog category. I wrote about being paid to post earlier this week and noted in the comments that writing about topics irrelevant to Marqui and then dropping their name isn’t going to work. Posting about how the David Suzuki foundation uses Marqui’s software to manage their communications is in context to the business theme of this blog category. It is also a teaser for the next post.

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Paid to post

posted by DL Byron on December 01, 2004

I added a paid to post page to our site today, offering an explanation of what paid to post is and why we’re doing it. Subheadings from the page include, Pimpin’ the Blogosphere, A Blogging Prison Bitch?, and Flame Us?

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