Baltimore-Washington WordPress Meetup

Just to let you know that if you are in driving distance of Baltimore, and you use, contribute or are thinking about making the switch to WordPress, I’m organizing the first ever Baltimore-Washington WordPress Meetup. It will be on Thursday, Aug 23rd at 6pm at the Metropolitan Coffeehouse & Wine Bar in Federal Hill (902 S. Charles St near M&T Bank Stadium).

I’d love to have you come out and help the local WordPress community grow and band together. There’s lots of WordPress users in the Baltimore-Washington area, but the community by and large – both WordPress and the greater blogging community) is fairly disjointed. Let’s share our stories and see where we can help each other.

This is open to any blogger. You don’t have to be a WordPress user. However, we make no guarantees about not trying to convert you either. ;)

RSVP at the meetup page so we know how many people to reserve for.

Guerrilla Marketing Techniques that Anyone Can Do

There are lots of blogs out there that instruct on the best ways to write more effectively or how to tweak your sites for best search engine results. Some folks even go really hardcore and instruct you on a variety of methods to build your site.

Very few people, if any, will tell you the easy stuff. The low hanging fruit. The slam dunks. Sure, it’s unlikely that the following tactics alone will catapult you into a position of being the next media mogul. However, these simple tricks are things that anyone can do, but yet very few people actually employ. As a result, you can gain guerrilla tactics that will place you in an advantageous position over the other guy.

Check it out.

Use your Domain Name as Your WiFi Network Name

SSID NameYes indeed. A sneaky, yet effective technique that broadcasts your network to everyone within 802.11 range. That is, if you don’t turn your SSID broadcast option off.

The trick here is that anyone within range of your wifi access point, many of whom are unlikely technically savvy, will see your domain name in their access list and it will spark curiosity. “What on earth is It looks like a website”

Of course, they will look and who knows if you’ll have a visitor for life. (/me waves at neighbors who just clicked through).

Attract Blackberry Users

It’s not a secret among Blackberry users that Blackberries attract other Blackberries. Try this trick on for size. Next time you go out pubbing, check that Blackberry often. Chances are someone is going to comment on it. When they do, don’t just answer with a humdrum “Yeah I’m checking my email”, or, “I need to stay in touch with whats going on at work.” Instead, tell them that you are looking at your site on the Blackberry browser to make sure it works on a mobile device.

Tangent: Make sure it actually does render properly on a Blackberry so that you have something worth looking at.

Buy a Shirt

Schwag is great, but your schwag is even better. Especially if it looks good. If you’re a schwag wearer (I am!), you can probably testify to the fact that people do actually notice what you’re wearing. The most commented on schwag I wear is my new Mesh Conference tee shirt from People look at the shirt and love to ask what “Mesh: Connect, Share, Inspire” means. Of course I tell them.
Mike Arrington with Boxers
Imagine how much a shirt with your website with some appropriately cryptic slogan would do to encourage conversation in line at Starbucks.

Of course, slightly less convincing is getting branded boxer shorts like Mike Arrington of Techcrunch got at Mesh (left).

Ask Someone About Themself

One thing my good friend Mark Evans taught me when he started at b5media was to ask questions. It usedf to annoy me, but it turns out there was method to his madness. He told me that, as a journalist, it’s important to ask questions because people love to talk about themselves. By asking leading questions, people open up and begin to just talk.

Sooner or later, the questioning will inevitably turn back to you and give you an opportunity to share what you do, how you do it, why you do it, etc.

These are just four techniques. There’s literally thousands of ways you can promote you or your blog without using common practices suggested all the time. Naturally, using common practices probably have more reach and will be more far reachingly successful. But these are some low lying fruit that anyone can employ.

What about you? Do you have techniques such as these?

Lots of People Hiring at WordCamp

Just a note, there are lots of folks hiring at WordCamp. b5media, Facebook, Yahoo, Dreamhost. Here’s a picture of the whiteboard. Please feel free to dive further into these jobs if you’re in the market. Notably, a number of these are b5media jobs so give me a shout if you’re a sysadmin, developer or a designer and would like to find out more about the jobs available here.

Questions at WordCamp: Is it Hard for You to Keep Blogging?

Last year, while at WordCamp, I was posting live coverage of the event for the Blog Herald. This year, I’m here representing b5media along with most of the tech team and Jeremy Wright, our CEO. Good times.

I figured I’d post about WordCamp again but I just don’t find any inspiration in giving you the blow by blow. I’m guessing you really don’t care, right? If you’re not here, you probably won’t really catch the groove.

Instead, I will post questions people have asked me while chatting here at WordCamp. If you are here, please say hi and feel free to ask a question. I may answer it here on the blog.

Q: Do you find it difficult to find inspiration to write posts regularly?

When I first got started blogging, I fell prey to the prison that most bloggers do. That prison is that you must produce content to stay relevant, have traffic and move up in the rankings. In other words, you must produce if you’re going to be successful.

While this is true to a degree, it really is something that bloggers as a whole have to get away from. In the past few weeks, I can count on one hand how many posts I’ve written. In that time, my RSS subscription numbers have jumped from approximately 680 subscribers to 750. Go figure. Why?

I boil this down to a number of factors that I have very explicitly tried to do here at Technosailor.

  1. Produce great content optimized for search engines. Recognizing that many people come from Google, I’ve made a point to think proactively about what kind of searches I’d like to have drive traffic to posts and then making sure I follow good practices in ensuring my posts ranks well. This means using keywords, great markup, etc. While this post won’t address SEO for blogs, you can find lots of great advice from folks like Aaron Wall and the people over at SEOMoz.
  2. Produce timeless content. This is a problem for newsy blogs or political blogs or current events blogs of any time. At Technosailor, I’ve spent more time trying to create content that, despite a timestamp, is relevant 3 years from now as it is today.
  3. Cultivating RSS subscribers. With premium content recently – that is, content that I only offer to my feed subscribers – and otther techniques, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cultivate RSS subscriptions. RSS subscribers never have to deal with the frustration of clicking over to a site and being disappointed when no new content is available. It’s somewhat like watching paint dry. Why watch? Just get the content when it becomes available automatically. RSS subscribers get the benefit of carrying on doing their own thing and getting the content whenever I decide to write. It’s so much more low maintenance.

These are just three techniques I’ve used to build traffic without having to feel the chains that hinder bloggers. Bloggers feel like they have to keep producing, and producing, and producing. That’s a good way to get blogger burnout. If great content is produced that is optimized for search engines, timeless and you move your readers away from the constraints of “checking out your site” and instead consuming your content via RSS or newsletters, you’ll find a tremendous amount of freedom from the constraints of being a content production slave.

Sink or Swim: Six Companies that Might Make It

This past Friday, I had the privilege of being on a “Future of the Web” panel at New Media Nouveaux outside of Washington, D.C. It was a lot of fun and certainly a necessary kind of event if the capital region is going to make any real strides in the area of social media.

One of the questions that was asked revolved around which companies or individuals were important to watch for the future. I shaped my answer in a Sink or Swim kind of mode. Companies who would sink into obscurity or make it in an industry that has as many newcomers, it seems, as we had in the late 90s and few are actually making it to an exit or IPO.

So as a recap and an elaboration, let me outline three companies that will sink and three that will swim.

Yahoo – Sink
A couple of weeks ago, I had several stories about Yahoo! and the woes they were encountering. In that time, their CEO has left, they have closed several of their businesses including Yahoo! Photos and Yahoo! Personals. This is more indication of what is to come as they slim down to an acquirable state. Yahoos failure was not in vision, but in execution. Many missteps along the road took them out of the lead position to upstart Google, and their seemingly blind navigation through the internet world post-1998 just makes me think they aren’t going anywhere but straight to the acquisition bin.

Twitter – Swim
Twitter is only a couple, six months old. They are not a big company and they may not have a business plan. However, their amazing ability to lure new users to the world of micro-content is nothing short of amazing. Twitter’s base principle “What am I doing now?” seems shallow in its focus, however look deeper and you’ll find a whole new world of connectivity between blog posts. Before blogs, we had magazines and newspapers and you had to wait until the next day to find out what someone would write – and then those someones were”qualified” journalists. Then there was blogging which gave the average person the opportunity to write a couple times of day. Twitter takes that conversation into an even more granular state of the “in between” times. Half global instant message, half blog, half forum, half marketing platform – Twitter has the bases covered. Despite upstart competitors like Pownce and Jaiku, none have the weird charm that Twitter does.

Plus, Twitter takes the internet into untethered space allowing folks to use the service via text message. That is very Web 3.0.

MySpace – Sink
No need to rehash this, Myspace is dead.

Facebook – Swim
An open platform, an open motif for all kinds of guerrilla and viral marketing, Facebook will not only become the destination for friends and colleagues – it will become the platform of choice for marketing.

Mahalo – Sink
Something about “human powered search” doesn’t sit right with me. It seems old and antiquated. It seems irrelevant. It seems like too big of a task to have relevancy in. Why should Mahalo work? If it does, it will only because Jason Calacanis is a very smart man. Beyond that, the entire concept is crazy.

ConceptShare – Swim
My good friends up in the great white north, ConceptShare, are definite swimmers. Scott Brooks called me this morning to thank me for mentioning them. Quite unusual to get a call thanking someone for a mention, but that demonstrates how smart these guys are.

ConceptShare takes the idea that collaborative design is tricky over email with comments and feedback sometimes having questionable results in the end product, and mashes the collaborative process into a single web application. With ConceptShare, a designer, photographer or videographer can upload “concepts” to the application, and contributors can comment with drag and drop comment threads linked to portions of the piece. This is particularly interesting in video where 2:35 seconds into the video, there is a color shift that seems unnatural and a contributor thinks that the video producer should edit that one 10 second section. See the power?

ConceptShare has been used by b5media, in full disclosure, for several of our design projects including our version 2 template that is deployed across the network. Very powerful. These guys laughed at me when I predicted they would be acquired by Google – but I think it’s coming.

Alternatives to Technorati

I’m sitting in a session here at New Media Nouveaux which is geared toward PR types and marketers. A statement is made by one panelist that using blogs effectively is about knowing what people are talking about and suggests Technorati as the source of market research.

While Technorati is A source, a better idea would be using Google Alerts or Google Blog Search. These really have become key for me in the past year as I’ve moved away from favoring Technorati. Many niches also have sites devoted to “following the conversation”. For technology bloggers, there is Techmeme and it’s sister site for politics, Memeorandum. Tailrank attempts to track the “long tail” of conversation on many topics including entertainment.

There’s many ways to track conversation. My advice to marketers is to not be an outsider. When you join the conversation, the conversation will develop in front of your eyes. You’ll spend far less time doing “market research” and far more time cultivating relationships with your consumers and partners.

New Media Nouveaux Today

I’m privileged to be on a panel today with Sean Gorman from Fortius One and Brian Williams from Viget Labs who was behind Squidoo. The topic is the future of the web and I’m looking forward to speaking about some of the things I’ve been tossing around in my head. I’m really honored to share the stage with some great guys.

If you’re attending the event, make sure you give me a shout out at the event.

The Problem with RSS

RSS is the lifeblood of bloggers. It is the means to unspeakable content distribution to a wide variety of places. It is the means to an end that is widespread readership. Techcrunch has 461k readers who read the content via readers such as Bloglines, Google Reader, mobile RSS readers such as the Viigo app we have launched for Blackberries as well as unknown other syndication deals.

RSS is the life blood of blogs and new media types.

However, that’s where it stops. The problem with RSS is that that simple three letter acronym strikes fear and trembling into the masses. People like my father don’t know how to read my content in any other way other than using his web browser to surf on by – if he remembers. Most people still don’t subscribe to podcasts – they listen to them in flash players or by direct download from the web.

This is the barrier to Web 3.0 and so far no one has figured out how to hurdle that barrier.

While RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, outside of tech circles, people have no clue how to even use Internet Explorer 7 to subscribe – and more importantly follow and consume – syndicated content. Even the good folks at FeedBurner Google dump a nice front end on the front of RSS pages (click here to see mine) but then what does the average user do with that? There is a gap of education missing.

Maybe the gap of education isn’t missing but the format is lacking?

Web 3.0, in my eye, is a departure from standard modes of interaction with computers and the internet. It is the removal of the need for keyboards, mice and screen; an expansion beyond the limitations of the screen. It is mobile and distributed content. It is distributed content.

Twitter is early Web 3.0 as the need for the computer and interaction from the standard web browser is removed in place of the interaction of text messaging. That is just the beginning.

It seems clear to me that the person who figures out how to bridge the distributed content gap from low mainstream adoption to critical mass, will be the winner of the race to Web 3.0 and will likely be a very rich person for life.

Music Channel Launch

I’m about 3 days late on jumping on the music channel launch bandwagon at b5media. I’ve been late because we’ve been working behind the scenes on the launch and there has been a lot to do. In fact, we’ve had about two months since we first hired Mike Laba, the music channel editor and it has been head down, plow ahead since.

The process for this has been pretty intensive since there’s several parts of a new blog launch that the tech team is responsible for. We setup the domain, deploy our standard build of WordPress, have our designer create logos, setup the standard b5 theme, make sure everything is in FeedBurner properly, make sure channel blogrolls are functioning as they should, etc.

There’s a lot to do and I’ve personally been going crazy getting this thing out the door. For most of the past 10 days, I haven’t gotten to bed before 3am.

But the music channel is now here and doing awesome. These bloggers rock, plain and simple, and I’m loving the content – specifically loving Jam Band News and The Good Musician.

This is the first major expansion that we’ve made into a new vertical since the Business Channel was launched last year. Pretty intense. Thanks for the traffic!

Twitter Friday Linking

It’s Friday and those of you who use Twitter know that it is often used as a “microblogging” medium – that is, people post their thoughts on topics and links to interesting stories. That’s about the most they can do since Tweets are limited to 140 charachters or less.

I’ve decided to do Twitter Friday linking, in the genre of Speedlinking, to bring attention to some of the stories Twitter users are following.