2005 Canadian Blog Awards

Post ImageIt seems that I have been nominated for the 2005 Canadian Blog Awards in the category of Best Blog, according to my Dad, who has been nominated in the category of Best Photo Blog:

I have been lucky enough to be nominated for the 2005 Canadian Blog Awards in the category of Best Photo Blog. There are many derserving nominations there. Have a look at the awards and give me your vote as the Best Photo Blog if you think that I am deserving.

My son Mack (MasterMaq) has also been nominated in the category of Best Blog. Again, there are many worthy nominations in that category but I think that MasterMaq does an excellent job of giving information and his personal insight on just about anything. While you are over at the Canadian Blog Awards voting for me you might as well vote for him at the same time.

Round one voting is underway now, and round two voting is supposed to start on December 3rd. Even if you don’t want to vote, you should check out the site as you’ll probably discover a great blog you didn’t know existed.

Read: EclecticBlogs

The New Splog

Post ImageBack in April of 2004 I was posting about something I called “splogging“. Basically it was the repeated and never-ending activity of leaving comments on someone’s blog post, essentially, spam comments. At the time, it was funny, because I was using this against friends! Eventually spam comments became a real problem, and it was no longer funny. I first experienced huge amounts of spam on my blog in October of 2004, which forced me to introduce a Human Interaction Proof control, commonplace on the web now.

The term splog is changing though. No longer does it mean spam comments (which, fortunately have declined in numbers). Instead, it refers to fake blogs setup for the sole purpose of creating link farms. Here’s what the sploggers do:

The splogger executed a script that ran searches on blog search engines for specific keywords, said [PubSub’s Bob] Wyman, notably names of some of the A-list bloggers, like Dave Winer and Chris Pirillo. Then the splogger took the results, went to Blogger-BlogSpot and, using the service’s application programming interface, or API, automatically created tens of thousands of blogs that contained text from the bloggers’ real Web sites, Wyman said, along with links to the mortgage and other sites.

People querying the well-known bloggers’ names in blog search engines, and people who track these bloggers and their write-ups via services like PubSub, Technorati and Feedster, then received feeds to the fake blogs, jamming RSS readers with useless links, Wyman said.

I am by no means an A-list blogger, but I have noticed it happening to me too. If you search Google for mastermaq, the results are littered with results for fake blogs. Most of the ones that affect searches for me are not hosted at Blogspot, but some are. And that’s where most of the problem has originated from.

The problem has gotten really bad lately, as described in the CNET News.com article I quoted above. Who knows what will happen, but we need a resolution! To get things started, Chris Pirillo has posted Ten Suggestions for Google’s Blogspot. I particularly like suggestions two and six – no brainers in my opinion.

Read: CNET News.com

Average Joe Podcasting Revisited

Post ImageYou might remember that way back on August 18th, 2005 I wrote a post entitled Average Joe Podcasting. Let me highlight the main point of that post for you:

Not everyone who starts a podcast is going to want to make money from it, just like not everyone who blogs does so with the intention of making a living. I read a lot about podcasting – news articles, blog posts, etc., and I can’t help but feel that far too many individuals and organizations focus on the “making money from podcasting” idea.

As soon as starting and maintaining a podcast is as simple as starting and maintaining a blog, I think we’ll see the same breakdown in podcasting [as in blogging].

You should read the entire post to get the full argument in context, but that’s the main idea – that individuals will likely start to podcast for themselves, and that they’ll become a major segment of the podcasting world.

Almost exactly two months after I wrote that comes a post from Odeo’s Evan Williams, entitled Podcasting for Regular People. Here’s the main idea in his post:

While blogging can be about playing on a world stage to influence, gain audience, and, potentially, monetize (the same goals as most other media), there are millions of people who are happily pubishing daily without those motivations. For them, it’s more about expression, self-reflection, and communication.

I call these people “casual content creators.” It’s not just that they’re amateur or part of the great, unwashed, Long Tail. It’s that they’re playing a different game.

The idea of casual content creation in the realm of audio is a powerful one. And I think it’s a yet-to-be-duly-recognized segment of the (potential) podcasting world.

Sound familiar? I thought so.

Read: Odeo Blog

AOL Buys Weblogs Inc.

Post ImageNews has been circulating since late last night that AOL has purchased Weblogs Inc. which publishes an entire network of blogs, including the very popular Engadget. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known, but various bloggers have been suggesting anywhere from $25 to $40 million USD, which certainly makes sense as the company makes at least $1 million in annual revenue from Google AdSense alone:

Weblogs, a privately held Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, operates 85 blogs with subjects ranging from parents to technology to film. AOL said Thursday that it will integrate the blogs throughout its network, such as within its television, travel and personal-finance channels.

“This…combination allows our audiences to be able to do a ‘deep-dive’ into a vast array of compelling topics that keep them interested and entertained on our network of properties, day after day,” Jim Bankoff, executive vice president of AOL’s programming and products, said in a statement.

While I think it’s a smart purchase for AOL, I am surprised quite frankly. My thoughts are more in line with Nick Denton’s:

Nick Denton, publisher of blogging site Gawker.com, was skeptical of the deal. “The whole point about blogs is that they’re not part of big media. Consolidation defeats the purpose. It’s way too early,” he said, adding that Gawker is not for sale.

That said, the deal will give AOL a very heavily trafficked collection of content properties, which of course is great for advertising dollars. What does this mean for the rumored Microsoft-AOL deal? My guess is that if anything was on the table, this deal won’t have much of an impact.

The downside to the deal is that Engadget and others will probably be peppered with Netscape and AOL advertisements. Not looking forward to that!

Regardless, as Weblogs Inc. founder Jason Calacanis posted:

You’ve got…blogs!

Read: CNET News.com

Six Apart's Project Comet

Post ImageSix Apart has a sneak peak at their future plans for blogging, called Project Comet:

Project Comet will launch in early 2006 and will combine the publishing power of TypePad, the community aspects of LiveJournal and the years of insight garnered from Movable Type. Project Comet is focused on creating an advanced weblogging technology platform combining the best elements of all our products, giving people the ability to easily stake out, build and share their own place on the web.

The Project Comet page also suggests that your blog will be able to incorporate music, photos, and video among other forms of media. Makes me wonder if they are going to work with established companies and services like Flickr, or if they’ll try to roll their own. The FAQ is pretty vague:

Powerful technology that effortlessly incorporates all the digital elements of your life in one place – text, photos, video, music, and voice – so they are available for you to share with anyone you want at anytime.

An announcement like this from Six Apart is long overdue. The purchase of LiveJournal created a ton of possibilities for the company, but I thought they might have come up with their master plan a little sooner. In any case, they have a FAQ page, a press release, and a post from Mena Trott.

Read: Six Apart

Northern Voice 2006

Post ImageJust saw on Darren’s blog that Northern Voice is happening again in 2006. Here are all the details so far (from Darren’s post):

  • It’s a two-day conference now, with Friday being a self-organizing thingy in the tradition of Foo Camp and Bar Camp. Saturday will be similar to last year’s conference. You can register for either or both days.
  • It’s going to be Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11.
  • It’s slightly more expensive than last year, but still absurdly cheap at CAN $30 for either day or $50 for both.
  • It’s back at UBC Robson Square.
  • We’re seriously considering holding a potluck dinner on the Friday night.

I really enjoyed Northern Voice 2005, so I am definitely looking forward to the second one. I really like the idea of Moose Camp too, that’s a good idea. Here’s the new website (I think the old green is nicer than the blue).

Read: Nothern Voice 2006

Blog Break Observations

Post ImageThere seem to be a decent number of bloggers who take “blog breaks” or “blog vacations” every now and then, usually to catch up on life and re-focus on why it is they write a blog in the first place. Famed blogger Scoble recently returned from his latest blog vacation, and noted:

See, a good blog is passionate and authoritative. Lately I’ve been going through the motions. Just blogging to keep blogging.

Over the past week I focused on rediscovering myself. What do I like to do? This is my blog. It better be fun. For me. Or else I’ll stop doing it.

I agree – it better be fun for me. Fortunately, I’ve never felt the need to take a blog break, but rather, have been forced to at least twice because of server problems (which we are doing everything possible to prevent from happening again). This last time was the longest period for me without blogging, and so I made a number of observations:

  • I realized that one of the main reasons I like posting to my blog is because I am creating content. I like the idea that people are reading what I am writing.
  • I also realized that I don’t need my blog to create content. Even though I wasn’t posting to my blog, I could still post pictures at my Flickr account, or bookmark and tag links at del.icio.us.
  • I sometimes post things here about my life, or things I have done recently. The reason I do this is so that friends, family and colleagues can easily read my blog and see what I’ve been up to, even if we don’t get the chance to talk. Some of my friends have remarked that as a result, one tends to become cut off from social interaction and thus is harmed. I am pretty confident I have reaffirmed that isn’t the case, as during the blog break, I didn’t talk to anyone more or less than normal (except that I got a lot of IM’s asking when the servers would be back up).
  • As much as I like creating content, I think I have found that the main reason this blog exists, the main reason I post to it every day, is that I like to have a “play by play” for my life – for what I am reading and finding interesting, what I am doing, and what I am thinking. What was I doing two weeks ago? It sucks that I wasn’t able to post it to my blog, because now I’ll forget it. I like the idea that if something newsworthy happens tomorrow, I can look back in two years and remember what I thought at the time. That’s pretty powerful stuff to me. For instance, I can look back and see that on August 8th of last year I didn’t post anything, but that was probably because I was busy with my parents, who were in town. How did I remember that? Because I posted on the 7th about going to see The Village with them.
  • I figured that if I wasn’t posting, I wouldn’t be reading blogs as much either. In fact, I kept reading as much as normal. Maybe it was because I could tag interesting things at del.icio.us, or maybe it was just that reading and posting to blogs aren’t as linked as I had assumed.

I guess the main observation from my little blog break is that I enjoy maintaining my blog, posting new things, and having others read them. I suppose the true test will come when I take a voluntary blog break, instead of a forced one, but for now, I’m happy to continue blogging.

Read: Robert Scoble

Blog Updates

Post ImageI added some new features to my site tonight, so I figured I should make a post to introduce them. Here’s a quick description of each:

  1. New Tags!
    If you look at the bottom of the last post, or any of the old ones really, you’ll generally find the little Technorati icon followed by a bunch of text links. Those are tags, which I linked to Technorati so you could see what other bloggers were saying about the topic. As you can see in this post, those links have now been replaced with my own tags (right after the little star icon). Clicking any one of the tags will take you to a page on my site that will in turn connect you with blog posts, images, podcasts, links, and other items about that topic.
  2. Add Comment
    The little discussion bubble icon next to the number of comments for each post has now been linked to the Post Comment page. That means you no longer have to click on a post title, then on the Post Comment link. You can just click the icon and post a comment right away!
  3. Bookmark with Delicious
    The first of three new icons next to the Add Comment icon, is the Bookmark Post icon. Clicking it will let you add the post to your delicious bookmarks. This icon appears on the main page, and on each entry page.
  4. Email to a friend
    The second new icon is the Email Post icon. Clicking it will let you send an email to someone telling them about the post. This icon appears on the main page, and on each entry page.
  5. Monitor with TalkDigger
    The last of the new icons is the Monitor Post icon. Clicking it will let you see who is linking to the post, using the search provided by TalkDigger. I love the functionality that TalkDigger provides, but I am not too keen on the look of the site, so I might change this to use a different service in the future. This icon appears on the main page, and on each entry page.

There’s probably small problems that I haven’t discovered yet, but everything should work pretty well. Enjoy!

Read: MasterMaq’s Blog

Testing the OPML Editor

Post ImageA tool that has received considerable attention from the digerati over the last few weeks is Dave Winer’s OPML Editor. I decided I should jump on the bandwagon and give it a try, so I downloaded it tonight, and blogged my obversations as I used it:

I am not entirely sure what I’d do with another blog, but I must admit there is something oddly appealing about having a weblog that is just a document. Instead of going through the whole post editor thing, you just add a new line, which is kind of cool. It’s intuitive, and I think new users would feel very comfortable.

Essentially, editing a blog like a document is intuitive, but this tool is not!

Yeah, turns out the tool itself is incredibly difficult to use, and not very user friendly at all. I realize that it is meant more as something to kickstart the community, but still. Also, I don’t think it is a 1.0 product yet, so I would expect to see some more work done to it.

Read: MasterMaq’s OPML Blog

Talking about Technorati

Post ImageLots of discussion going on right now about Technorati. This piece by Doc Searls does a very good job of bringing you up to speed on what has been said in the last few days. What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t add my two cents?

One thing I like about Technorati is that they are not afraid to setup special sites, like they did for both Live 8 and the London attacks. I think that bringing all of that information onto a single aggregated page is useful. However, like Jeremy, I find that Technorati really lags behind the other services in terms of accuracy. I subscribe to keyword feeds from Feedster, Technorati, Pubsub and BlogPulse, and I would honestly rank Technorati at the bottom of those services. The others find more items, and they generally find them much faster. Actually I am somewhat amazed at how one service can find a post and the others won’t. Happens more often than you’d think.

I have also been disappointed with the service provided by Technorati. My site has not shown up in their Tags feature for a long time, so I sent a couple of support emails. I never heard back though. The only thing I got was an automated response, and nothing further. It’s frustrating. Note the date:

I sent one more recently too, but never heard back from that one either.

I like Technorati, and I have long been a user, I just think that whether they mean to or not, they create far too many opportunities for improvement for themselves.

Read: Technorati