blogtalk 2.0

Late to the Flickr party

by Suw on October 20, 2004

I signed up for a Flickr account ages ago – before I'd even moved CnV from Blog-City to Blogware so it must have been early March – but although I've been signed up for months, it's taken me until now to start uploading photos. The impetus was wanting to post photos from last weekend's drinks with Joi, Cory, Tom and a raft of other lovely people, but not really wanting to blog about it all.
Anyway, I have to say that now I've used it, I really like Flickr. It's easy to upload and tag photos, it's fun when people leave comments on them, and because Flickr doesn't require any standard file size or anything, I don't have to resize in Photoshop. I just maybe crop and tweak.
It's also easy to see what other people are uploading and to explore their photo albums. Plus, you have an RSS and an Atom feed, and I think the pro version does even more than the free one. So yes, I'm a convert.
So, finally, I've started to upload my photos from Vienna and BlogTalk2 for your delight and pleasure. Enjoy!

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BlogTalk, a week on

by Suw on July 14, 2004

34,000 feet. If you're lucky you can see a long way from 34,000 feet on a clear day. If you're not all you get to see is wing and cloud with the odd glimpse of land through holes in the water vapour. Yet even when the weather's good it's hard to make out much detail from so high – you can actually see a lot more just after take off when you're only a few thousand feet up.
Seeing further doesn't mean seeing more.
BlogTalk is behind me now. Temporally. Physically. But not mentally. Mentally I'm cruising at an altitude of 10,000 ft, in clear air, circling over the various topics and conversations that are laid out below me. Question really is where to land? Which subject do I address first?
A lot was said at BlogTalk both in the conference room and outside of it. Now, a week later, these are the things that have stuck in my mind.
Blogs in business
We heard quite a bit about blogs in the knowledge management sphere – how companies are starting to use blogs and other social tools to help them gather information that's currently locked up inside their employee's heads and to bring new information to people's attention. Blogs are also being used in project management as a way of building teams and encouraging constructive risk taking and collaboration.
Many of those working in this area are having to deal with the fact that the majority of people just don't know what blogs are, so there's a large amount of persuading and evangelising to be done in order to get users to accept these tools. Ninety per cent of the work is educating people and changing their existing mindset so that they can learn how to get the most out of blogging.
Freelance blogging
Writing your own blog and earning revenue through ad clickthroughs is not the only way to make money from blogging.
As the power of blogs as a conversational communication tool becomes more widely understood, I think we'll see and increase in blogs used by companies to create and maintain a corporate identity and for marketing conversations with their customers.
I see the Corporate ID Blog as basically building a personal relationship between the customer and the company, giving updates as to products or company policy or informing the customer of developments and future directions. The Marketing Blog addresses the needs and interests of users/buyers of a specific product, building a community of people who are united by a specific set of issues. Unlike traditional marketing, which exists to name drop, marketing blogs will have to reconsider marketing in terms of community and dialogue, scrapping the broadcast model in favour of the new conversational model.
Soon there's going to be a whole new creative industry, that of the Professional Blogger. It's going to take a raft of skills, not just good copy writing, but also research, networking, conversational, educational and moderation skills. A professional blogger needs to be able to understand the client, how the blog medium can work for them and how to steer blog-based conversations to ensure that the client doesn't get frightened off and that the readers don't get bored. It's not just a matter of throwing a standard blog solution at a site in the hope that it will stick.
Multilingual blogging
As I've already mentioned here, I had long and fascinating conversations about multilingual blogs at BlogTalk, although sadly there were no presentations on that topic. That is surprising in retrospect, considering that the majority of attendees were themselves bi- or multilingual.
One of the main issues with bilingual blogging is that blog tools are not set up for it. If you are using a hosted service then the chances are that you will be using either English, or your local language if you are lucky enough to have a localised version. If you use tools such as WordPress and have the skills then you can hack the code to make it behave in a more bilingual way, as Steph has. It's not a perfect solution though, and we need to consider the issues around bilingual blogging so that appropriate tools can be developed.
The basic solution is to run separate blogs for each language you write in, but that can be cumbersome and result in one blog being neglected. Easier is to put all your languages on one blog, but then you risk confusing and possibly annoying monolingual readers, or of reducing one language to minority status. Ideally one could administer a bilingual blog which would allow you to create two sets of blog furniture, depending on the language of the entry, and allow for easy categorisation and cross-referencing.
That's really just scraping the surface of it – I need to spend much more time mulling this over and to blog more about it. Meantime, Steph and I have set up a Multilingual Blogging topic on Topic Exchange so please ping it if you write about this subject, in any language.
Collaboration and the hivemind
One of the most enjoyable aspects of BlogTalk was the collaborative note taking, co-ordinated using Rendezvous and SubEthaEdit. It is a crying shame that these are Mac-only applications because that excluded quite a few people from the process. What was interesting was that taking part in the note taking changed my experience of the conference.
For starters, by communicating in a backchannel such as Rendezvous or IRC you get a much stronger feeling of community. I didn't get to use the IRC channel much, but I've seen it at work during other conferences (that I wasn't present at). That was a shame, but it was mainly due to being on an unfamiliar computer.
By collaborating simultaneously in real time note taking I found that my level of concentration really stepped up a gear. I went from being easily distracted, even though I was handwriting my own notes, to focusing so intently on what was being said that I resented anything that interrupted me. The density of my note taking by hand was pretty light – diagrams, bullet points, the usual sorts of things. The other note takers followed the same tactics in SubEthaEdit, but when I got my hands on Steph's laptop, I went into overdrive, virtually transcribing everything that was said.
I don't know if that was a good thing or not, and nor am I sure why my style so drastically changed between media. Possibly it has something to do with the fact that I am a bit dyslexic so find handwriting stuff not as easy as typing it. And I am a demon touch-typist, so I can easily match a moderately paced speaker, particularly if I don't worry about accuracy. Add to that my completist personality and maybe that gives us a clue.
Again, there is room for development of techniques in this. As I mentioned, this was a Mac-only experience, and it was a shame to exclude people from it. I am also not sure if it would scale up particularly well – if you had too many people working on one document it risks becoming messy and a bit slow. As it was, there was a smallish core of about half a dozen note takers, usually with one person taking the lead and others chipping in with lost/misheard bits or to correct typos.
What would be valuable, but which doesn't seem to be happening as much as I would have expected is the reformatting and expansion of the notes now that they're in the wiki. The SubEthaEdit documents that were wikified were just a starting point and there is no feeling amongst the perpetrators that the resulting wiki is in anyway owned by us. With so many attendees who could add their notes and knowledge into the mix, it is a shame to see that this is not happening.
I suspect the problem is that wikis are an ugly solution to a simple problem – formatting a wiki is a bit of a nightmare, particularly when they can't even cope with a single line break, as opposed to a paragraph break. Someone somewhere needs to seriously address general wiki usability.
Points to consider
Beyond these core areas of interest were a whole bunch of other things that I need to delve more deeply into when I have the time.
– Blogs are oral communications in a written format. What implications does this have for those of us working in this area professionally? How can this format be adapted to business use and how will businesses need to adapt in order to make best use of the blog format?
– Video blogs. Will video blogging be the next big thing or are people happy with the simpler, more basic moblog? Are barriers to entry, such as bandwidth requirements and complexity of format, too high?
– Geourls and geoblogging. It's easy to tie a website or blog to a geographical location with a geourl, but what practical uses does it have? And would geobloggers make themselves vulnerable by publicising their exact location? How can moblogs – particularly individual entries in a moblog – utilise geourls, maybe alongside GPS, to provide additional useful image metadata? (I haven't checked, but surely this must have been done already though? It's such a no-brainer.)
– Forming networks. Blogs are invaluable as networking tools, but they don't work well in isolation. What other tools are required to make the best of blog networking opportunities and what are the emergent behaviours amongst users?
– Categorisation. It is too easy to lump all blogs together under one, ill-fitting umbrella, and extend conclusions from one small subsection of the blogosphere to the whole thing. How can we categorise the blogosphere and where do common generalisations fall down or turn into misconceptions?
– I really need to write a book, but at the moment I feel like a magpie locked in a shop full of Swarovski crystal – so much sparkliness that I'm really not sure where to start.

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BlogTalk Day 2

by Suw on July 8, 2004

The second day of BlogTalk was, I thought, much better than the first in terms of presentations. There was a lot more in it that I could get my teeth into, and a lot less academic stuff to go over my head.
Ben and Mena Trott's keynote started the thing off, but although it was amusing and engaging, it wasn't really very meaty. They made the point that traffic isn't the be all and end all of blogging, and that small blogs are as valid as large popular ones. Well, what's new in that? I had really hoped for something groundbreaking from them. They are in a unique position to provide some real insights into the blogging world, but they didn't do that.
The outstanding talks were Lee Bryant's paper on using blogging as part of a knowledge management solution for part of the NHS, which was funny, interesting and gave me a lot to think about; and Horst Prillinger's paper on whether or not blogs are journalism, which contained an excellent summary of the differences between journalism and blogging.
The SubEthaEdit collaborative note taking continued throughout Day 2, and although I continued to peer over Steph's shoulder, I again felt the lack of a Mac quite keenly, but by Anjo Anjewierden's talk Steph's fingers were achy so I took over the note taking. It was kinda weird at first because the keyboard was all strange, being of Swiss configuration, so I kept getting the y and the z the wrong way round.
The process of actually taking notes by hand is a very familiar one. You watch the speaker, scribble down key words and phrases, sometime sentences. Maybe you make diagrams. Maybe your mind wanders a bit and you miss stuff. With SubEthaEdit I found myself concentrating very hard on what was being said, almost transcribing it word for word. I stopped looking so much at the slides, and focused a lot harder, trying not to lose the thread of what was being said.
If you go to the wiki you will see a distinct difference between my note taking style, which starts in the middle of Panel 7, and everyone else's. Mine are much more verbose, much longer. I am not sure if this is good or not. I type like a demon, but on a strange keyboard you can either have speed or accuracy but not both. It was really odd typing whilst someone else, I think Horst, came along behind me and tidied up my typos.
Anyway, Steph and I have been thinking quite a bit about this whole experience. I don' t know if this sort of collaborative note taking is frequently done at other conferences, so if you've taken part in this sort of thing elsewhere, we would really like to know – leave a comment or email me.
Steph has also posted a more detailed history of what we did and asks some interesting questions. We would both like your feedback, so please do let us know what you think.
Right… I'm not done with this subject yet, but I am off to do a bit more sightseeing!

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Still alive!

by Suw on July 7, 2004

No time to blog! Day 2 of BlogTalk was fantastic, but you'll have to wait a bit longer for details. Off to look round Vienna today. bbl

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BlogTalk Day 1

by Suw on July 5, 2004

It's gone midnight, so not much time for anything other than impressions of BlogTalk, and first impressions are that there are a whole bunch of interesting people here with cool stuff to say, and not all of them get to stand behind the podium.
I can't help but be egocentric and say that some of the more academic stuff was hard for me to follow. I'm not stupid but I am out of practice when it comes to extracting core messages in an oral-aural situation. I suppose I live too much online in the written word, so the spoken word is causing me a little culture shock. It's nice, though, that the majority of accents I hear around me are not English or American. It's great to get a perspective on blogging that is new, compared to those I usually hear.
As usual, though, I'm almost more interested in the audience and the way that they interact and behave than the actual talks themselves. Not having a laptop myself divorced me from the backchannel – some thing I really felt the lack of at first. Instead I am restricted to analogue note-taking methods: ye olde pen and paper. Advantages are that I get to doodle and draw diagrams, something that those transcribing miss out on.
OK, so maybe that's not so much of an advantage, but I've got to make mysel feel a bit better somehow.
What was cool, though, was watching how the backchannel developed. Obviously there was an IRC channel, but to be honest most of the interesting stuff was being done by the mac users on SubEthaEdit and Rendevouz (links to come when I'm not on a strange-to-me laptop). Being a PC user this was all new to me – Rendevouz allows you to find out who's around in your vicinity and to strike up conversations. SubEthaEdit allows for collaborative real-time note taking. Unlike wikis, SubEthaEdit documents can be edited simultaneously by a number of people.
Initially, it struck me that multitasking whilst at a conference is really bad for your concentration. You simply cannot IRC, Rendevouz, check links, edit a wiki and SubEthaEdit whilst also listening to what were some very information-dense presentations. You cannot simultanously process so many conflicting streams of data.
What's clear from watching Steph and the others, particulary prodigious note-taker Lee, is that that doesn't matter. By collaborating in a SubEthaEdit note-taking session you become part of the hivemind, so if you miss something, someone else will fill in the gap before you even realise that you have missed something. The groups becomes self-correcting. If you're not sure if the speaker said 'sidewalk' or 'cyborg' just type whatever you think it was and someone else will have heard more clearly and will correct you.
From SubEthaEdit, the documents were transferred to a wiki to enable wider amendment, additions and reformatting. By the end of the week, if not before, I expect that the wiki will be home to a comprehensive set of notes.
This ad hoc collaboration is a boon. I found it very hard to focus continually on talks which were often very dense, and if I had to rely on my own notes I know that I would miss many of the most interesting points when it came to reviewing the day. Now, however, I can go and annotate what others have written and add my contribution to a growing body of knowledge and experience.
Another way of facillitating this cohesion is the use of TopicExchange to collate the various blog posts made about the conference. As usual, I felt too shy to get my camera out and take photos but so many other people did and hopefully they will ping TopicExchange and I will get to see them then. I was brave, though, and I did ask a question. Aren't you proud?
The bits inbetween the talks were, as expected, very cool – lots of interesting conversations with lots of intersting people, notably Lilia Efimova, Stephan Schmidt, Phil Wolff, Mark Brady, Sebastian Fielder, Riccardo Cambiassi, Horst, Steph and Lee. (Again, links to come.)
Right, time to crash out. Another full day of talks and talking tomorrow.

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by Suw on July 4, 2004

All I really wanted to do this morning was sleep, but still I managed to haul my ass out of bed in time for Horst and I to go along to BlogWalk3.0, a smallish meet up for bloggers interesting in talking about networking in the blogosphere and related topic.
It was fab.
Met a whole bunch of cool people, had some great conversations and even had some realisations about how and why I do what I do. For example, take that blogroll on the left there. The people that are starred are people I have met. Some of them I count to be good friends. Some were friends before I started blogging, some are newly acquired. Some are people that I met at a meet up and haven't spoken to since. The unstarred links are people whose blogs I read because they are interesting, online friends I've not met in person, or blogs that I don't read so much anymore but for which I don't want to lose the link. Bit of a mishmash, really.
We had a long conversation about qualifying blogrolls, and to what extent people cateogorize (or not!) their links, and what purpose blogrolls serve – information cache or indication of status? Not sure I can say what the conclusion was, or if there was one, but it made me rethink how I link to people and why I feel it is important for me to use those little stars.
The morning was spent mainly talking in small groups around this idea of blogs as networking tools, then we went and terrorised a local restaurant before walking again around Vienna during the afternoon. Had a whole bunch over excellent chats with people, about DRM, the experience of having your business collapse, the difference between Vienna and London, and a bunch of other stuff. Way cool.
Over on Ad++ Adalbert has posted some photos (including at least one of me) as well as a few more details of the day and a sound file of me spouting off about something. Unusually for me, not only did I talk in the small conversations, I also participated considerably in the large group discussion at the end of the day. I usually keep my mouth shut in those circumstances, and can even be really quite shy in large groups, but I felt very comfortable with the atmosphere within the group and happy to air my thoughts.
Congratulations to Ton, Lilia and Sebastian for organising such a great day, and thanks to everyone else for such enjoyable conversations. More BlogWalk stuff links over at the BlogWalk Topic Exhange page.

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BlogTalk wiki and meetups

by Suw on June 18, 2004

If any of you are going to BlogTalk 2.0 in July, there's now a wiki on Joi's site for people to make arrangements.
I'm going to be arriving on 3rd July and departing on the 9th, and am particularly interested in meeting anyone involved in EFF/Creative Commons/copyright/copyleft/DRM issues. Email me or leave a comment here or on the wiki if you want to meet up.

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Chocks away!

by Suw on June 1, 2004

w00t! I have just purchased my return airfare to Vienna for July for the BlogTalk 2.0 conference. I am very excited! I get to leave the country! For more days than last year! w00t!!
Sorry for the ! abuse, but this is all very exciting for me, considering that I have spent all of four days out of the country in the last 14 years. Plus there will be just the coolest collection of bloggers there whom I am really looking forward to meeting. So, if you're going and you want to meet up, let me know!
*does little dance*
I'm going to Vienna! Yes I am!! Whoo hoo!!

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