Categories
blogger General marketing tech wordpress

Twitter for the masses

I saw this retweet pointing to Jeremy Toeman’s article Will normal folks ever use Twitter?”. (By default that makes me un-normal….)

never

He makes an excellent point which matches my own experience. Most people don’t see the added benefit of using Twitter. The uses are difficult to grasp. Especially since Twitter turned off the SMS service for the rest of the world, which is the single feature that got me started on Twitter. Connecting the mobile world with the web world – at no extra cost – was a killer app in 2007. Unfortunately it didn’t last. Read this 2008 article, What Twitter’s global failure means for Africa by @whiteafrican.

In addition to not understanding Twitter uses, many people don’t like reading online. Reading deadwood media is more relaxing for the eyes, still more portable, less battery-dependent.

My suggested uses
Listed below are some of my Twitter use cases.

Search
Twitter Search is great for non-mainstream, niche topics. Many bloggers have added Twitter to their publishing toolset. Un-normal people everywhere in the world that are at the scene, on the ground have access to mobile phones and send out tweets. The data is raw, not confirmed, and unfiltered, but it gives a voice to the unheard and a different opinion from mainstream media outlets that dominate western opinion (commonly known as the gatekeepers). Google now searches Twitter and displays recent tweets:

google-search-for-twitter

The use:
In addition to all the mainstream media I hear and read, I read tweets on currents affairs as a supplement.

Traffic
Twitter generates traffic for your website, photo stream, blog, online shop. If you want to be noticed by the early adopter market segment, Twitter is the place to be. I would compare it with blogging in 2004 to 2005, when it was easy to google bomb yourself into the top 10 search results. One thing is certain, web traffic streams are constantly changing. Maybe Twitter will be discarded. The key is good content. Regurgitating or copying content that is not your own will not help you in the long run. Writing yet another review on an over-hyped topic is destined for oblivion. A good example how to build a web audience in a consistent way is Handmade 2.0.

The use:
Since generating traffic for websites is part of my day job, hanging out on Twitter helps me to figure out the changing traffic streams.

Tech help
I use Twitter to get feedback and help on technical topics. I share my knowledge and experience.

The use:
Share knowledge, learn!

Connect
Still fascinating after 14 years on the Internetz: connecting with others. Discussing. Reviewing.

For example, every Sunday evening on German TV there is a murder mystery called Tatort. It’s an institution for some. A distraction for others, ironing clothes for the work week ahead. With Twitter you can review the latest Tatort in real-time.

The use:
As in the C.S. Lewis quote: We read to know, we are not alone.

Categories
blogger General tech

How to Backup your Twitter World

As many of you probably learnt by experience, Twitter Search only shows results for the last couple of days.

I guess, one of the preliminary assumptions is that you consider your collection of 140-character-long phrases valuable. And would like to search thru them from time to time.

Friendfeed
One easy workaround is to add your Twitter stream into Friendfeed. Friendfeed – currently in a difficult interim situation since the Facebook announcement – still has the best real-time search. It is a great way to archive your tweets and make them searchable.

Import OPML file into Google Reader
These days, bloggers don’t talk much about OPML anymore. OPML files (and the legitimate re-use thereof) were widely discussed in the early days of the Swiss blogosphere.

It seems many apps try to shield us from the underlying technical issues regarding import/export and backups.

Dave Winer shows how to extract the feeds of your Twitter world using an OPML tool.

My Twitter world is accessible at http://tw.opml.org/get?user=nchenga&folder=1.

Next, I can download this file to my desktop.

And upload it into Google Reader:

  • Go to Manage Subscriptions
  • Select Import/Export
  • Select your OPML file and click Upload

It puts all of the newly imported feeds into a separate folder. ReadWriteWeb has a detailed how to.
The only downside is that you don’t want to re-read all of the tweets in your Google Reader. Especially if you’re reading other RSS streams within the same account.

Offline RSS Reader
You can use the OPML file to create an offline backup within your favorite desktop RSS reader. I use the feed reader in Opera 10 to pull a copy of my RSS feeds together. Advantage: doesn’t interfere with my online reading.

Twistory
Another fun tool is Twistory, which adds your Twitter prose to your Google Calendar. It offers an iCal feed. And you can time events by adding t and /t to your posts.

Timetracking tagging: start your tweets with both t or /t and Twistory will keep track of what you’re doing.

Twistory

Categories
blogger blogging tech wordpress

Chiperoni goes Mobile (kind of)

As part of my ongoing research regarding internet access via low bandwidth connections, I saw App+frica displaying a mobile version at http://appfrica.net/blog/.

I installed the same MobilePress plugin and activated it a few minutes ago. Based on the plugin description, it should detect if you’re accessing the website with a mobile device and display a version optimized for iPhone and Barackberrys and others.

A couple of Mobilepress URL hooks to remember:

  • ?mobile – display mobile version
  • ?nomobile – render the standard WordPress theme / normal blog.
  • ?killsession – kill any session data stored and render the correct version of a blog, based on browser / device type

In addition I just downloaded the latest WordPress app for my low and humble iPod Touch. According to @whiteafrican it is much improved compared to the last version.

Categories
blogger blogging General marketing tech

Intro to SEO and SEM

I am faced with the challenge to explain SEO and SEM in a 1 hour presentation. The audience consists of business folks.

Where to start explaining is the hard part.

Also there are so many myths in this area – garnered by SEO vendors selling their services as a “Wunderwaffe” for instant web traffic success.

As is typical at Chiperoni headquarters, here are a couple of ideas and a rough outline for my presentation.

Ideas and links

I liked this section of Derek Powazek’s recent criticism of all things SEO:

The One True Way

Which brings us, finally, to the One True Way to get a lot of traffic on the web. It’s pretty simple, and I’m going to give it to you here, for free:

Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.

That’s it. Make something you believe in. Make it beautiful, confident, and real. Sweat every detail. If it’s not getting traffic, maybe it wasn’t good enough. Try again.

Then tell people about it. Start with your friends. Send them a personal note ”“ not an automated blast from a spam cannon. Post it to your Twitter feed, email list, personal blog. (Don’t have those things? Start them.) Tell people who give a shit ”“ not strangers. Tell them why it matters to you. Find the places where your community congregates online and participate. Connect with them like a person, not a corporation. Engage. Be real.

Then do it again. And again. You’ll build a reputation for doing good work, meaning what you say, and building trust.

It’ll take time. A lot of time. But it works. And it’s the only thing that does.

‘Cos it explains why you can have all the SEO you want but without personal drive, it will take you nowhere. It’s the content that matters.

Within a larger organization, this personalized focused drive isn’t always possible and needs to be planned and managed carefully.

Derek’s approach misses some aspects. As pointed out by Danny Sullivan at “An Open Letter To Derek Powazek On The Value Of SEO”. Many aspects that long-term bloggers learnt between the lines while trying to google-bomb their way into the top 10 are unknown to website owners and need explaining. (May I take this opportunity to remind my blogging friends that I am still the top hit for “boring flower snapshot”? Yes, I may).

Rough outline
Here’s a first outline, which I’ll convert into PPT slides on Monday:

1. SEO – from directory lists to a secret search algorithm

2. White hat SEO vs. black hat SEO
Goodbye to link farms, Keyword stuffing, Cloaking, Redirects

3. Myths and legends

4. Technical Aspects of SEO

5. The Google Webmaster Guideline
Web developer must clearly have SEO thoughts in mind when building the site:

  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Keywords
  • Clear navigation structure
  • Readable URLS

But this is only the basis…

6. Writing for the Web and SEO

How to get into the top 10 search items for a search phrase:

  • Technical aspects – is your website conform with Google Webmaster Guidelines?
  • Keyword research – identify 5 to 12 keywords that users will enter to find a service or product
  • Content – write copy that supports the buying process and incorporates your main keywords, see “Content drives action”. Write for people not search engines. Incorporate keywords intelligently. At the end of the day, it is people that will read and share your link.
  • Coherence – the whole site with its meta tags and content must fit together – in German we say the site “muss stimmig sein“.
  • Frequency – the Internet has become more dynamic than ever. The real-time web is here to stay. The companies and the technologies may/will change. But the concept will remain. It is like an ocean of data, seeping around us. Create a flow of articles, news items and events at regular intervals. To continue the analogy – offer a stream of data that grows into a river and forms a wide tributary when it reaches the ocean.
  • Outposts – Google decides how important a website is based on the number of back-links. Strive to get listed within your industry sectors leading websites and online directories. Publish articles at external news sites. Use online PR distribution services such as PRWeb. Build your online reputation. Links from non-relevant, off-topic sites will have no impact on your search engine ranking.
  • Patience – it takes time to build web reputation. No instant fix.
  • Old “traditional” media vs. new “online” media – don’t neglect one or the other. Use all distribution channels to make your marketing message known. But – an important but – read the TOS at Facebook, Twitter beforehand. Maybe your company cannot afford having its data locked in by some of the TOS we see these days. Just like with print, be aware that some new media may not be beneficial for your product or service.

What do you think?

Other aspects to consider?

Categories
blogger blogging flickr Photos tech

Return of the Blog

Gigaom recently published an article that highlights an important point. A point that has been resonating through my head since Lift 07:

In this incredible sea of data that surround us, what happens to my data when a service like Twitter or Flickr or FriendFeed is sold to another company.

Gigaom writes:

The cynical me believes that it’s foolish for any of us to expect that Web 2.0 companies be in the business of providing services for charity. They are, after all, for-profit entities and when opportunity arises, everyone looks out for themselves. That’s just the way of the world.

I really like Flickr, Twitter and I recently started using Friendfeed more actively. Mainly ‘cos I can search thru my Twitter content more easily.

But… what happens when these services are discontinued?

It is my data. I am the owner. As the owner I want:

  1. To be able to download a backup copy when I want to
  2. Close, shut down and delete all of my data whenever I want to
  3. Control who sees which data, where and when

These are my minimum requirements for online, interactive web applications. Sound easy and straightforward.

End of topic. Well, not quite.

Many web applications – and I’m kind of shying away from the omnipresent social media / social network term here – don’t offer an easy Export/Backup all of my data/Batch Download function.

Flickr Batch Download
Consider Flickr, by all measures one of the more established and mature tools. If you click Get Help this dropdown menu displays:

Flickr Help Topics

It doesn’t list an item how to download photos. titles, descriptions and comments or create a backup of photos and comments using a batch downloader or similar.

The tools page only lists applications to upload files.

Flickr Tools to upload and share

Apparently, the export feature is being discussed in the Help forums. I know that there are lots of threads, discussing download tools for Flickr, ‘cos I was worried about my data at Flickr. Yes, every dedicated photographer has a backup system in place for their photos.

There are some third party tools like Downloadr (I haven’t tested this yet).

Here’s an example how to create a backup of your Twiitter content using Dave Winer’s OPML tool:

How To: Backup And Search All Your Friends’ Tweets In Google Reader

But, my point is: the effort is on the users’ side. And I know many users forget or ignore this. Luckily, the RSS format offers a number of options.

One way street
Signing up and uploading is made as easy as possible. I have years of data at Flickr and I really like the application. So far the benefits outweigh the downsides by far. I like sharing my photos at Flickr. But since I signed up, Flickr was purchased by Yahoo and now Yahoo is partnering with Microsoft. Who knows what will happen in the next 1-3 years? A good web application should offer a batch export/download function.

My advice if you’re signing up for a web application:

  • Be aware of the fact that most web apps are one way streets. They are in the data business. They want your data to display on their website for business reasons.
  • Read the terms and conditions carefully.
  • Find out how you can export or download your data beforehand.
  • Find out how you can close and delete your account.
  • Be prepared to spend time and resources to learn the web application that you are using. Learn the advantages as well the disadvantages of the web application. It is important that you acquire web skills.
  • A good web application should offer a batch export/download function. If it isn’t available, ask for it. Remember: It’s your data.
  • Build your own blog. Get involved in building your own website. Your blog is your mothership. Consider services such as Twitter and Friendfeed as fast and zippy spaceship shuttles that bring visitors to your mothership. Rather than feeding Facebook and co., you will experience a learning curve that will benefit you in many other areas.
  • Develop your research skills. We need independent, ad-free blogs more than ever.

Remember the continuous bootstrap curve.

Gigaom writes:

But somewhere between my cynicism and people’s Utopian desires lies a happy place. It’s called the blog.

Your Opinion…
What are your thoughts on this? How are you backing up your Flickr and Twitter and Facebook and Friendfeed and Google data? Do you care what happens to your data? What precautions are you taking?

Categories
blogger blogging General Malawi-related tweet

Malawi Twitterers

As Malawi celebrates independence day tomorrow, here is a list of Malawi twitterers you might like to follow:

Vincent Kumwenda – currently at Muloza border, Mulanje; topics include Malawi news, world news, interesting Malawi web pages, and soccer. He also writes a blog.

Fred Bvalani – in Blantyre; tweets about mobile applications and phones, Oracle training in freezing cold Cape Town, Manchester United, movies, church, Escom power cuts, and Malawi news and websites. Check out his blog.

Dannie Grant Phiri – first started twittering during the recent Malawi elections; writes about Malawi and soccer in his blog at http://daniso.weebly.com/.

Soyapi Mumba – well-known Malawi blogger and twitterer, software developer, volunteer developer at Ushahidi, lives in Lilongwe. He writes about software development, interesting mobile and web applications, Malawi news. He is the programmer behind Owinna – a web app on Malawi football league fixtures and results, as well as the Premier league and other international championships. You can access this information through the website or SMS by texting FOLLOW owinna to +447624801423 or on Twitter.

Clement Nyirenda – blogs and twitters from Tokyo, where he is doing a PhD in computer science. He covers many IT and development topics related to Malawi. A good resource to learn about projects such as Seacom. He discusses entrepreneurial ventures and their effect on Malawi. Read his blog post on Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter stunt to raise awareness about malaria.

There are many more, which I might mention in a second blog post.

Categories
blogger blogging tech tweet wordpress

Hiding in Full Public View

In January my stats dropped to an all time low. There are a number of reasons, I guess.

One reason is that I haven’t been writing much lately. Just an occasional link. Short cross-references to my Flickr stream. That’s it.

Another reason is my retro-style homepage, which points to my other life stream options (Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader, Delicious) and probably diverts (or puts off) a lot of people.

Maybe another reason is the second WordPress installation I’ve added to showcase an idea. Maybe the Google bot doesn’t like this kind of setup. I’m not sure. It’s not duplicate content.

Although I think I am still listed.

It is surprising because I have over 4 years of content here.

Fact is I could start a confessional style blog and publish details galore. And only five people would read it.

Because the amount of information floating around the Internet has exploded. Gone are the times where a blog post on a specialized topic would get hits.

Somehow I find this strangely comforting. I can hide in full public view. Hide on the Internet.

And the other message hidden in there is that building communities is hard work.

As enterprises try to follow their customers and consider integrating Facebook and Twitter into their marketing programs, I think it’s important to hold up some warning signs.

IMG_3782

There are no quick wins in this.

You’ll need Scoble-like marketing resources. Using a video-only communication strategy is not the answer. People are different. Some like screencasts. Some like text.

Scoble says:

Truth is that if you want to build an audience on the web you must use EVERY tool available.

You’ll need to walk the fine line in your choice of communication (no marketing glib, no sales talk, no PR gobbeldygook, a real personal voice, useful and good content at frequent intervals). I read somewhere that the first Flickr team greeted every new sign-up personally.

You’ll need to have a clear community policy.

And above all you need to be aware that you’re giving your data to a third party.

Twitter / Home

Everything you publish on the Internet is up for grabs. Everything.

I’m not saying that enterprises should not invest in social media. I’m saying enterprises should carefully consider the costs. Maybe that’s a possible business model for Twitter… corporations pay for the ability to export their data and contacts at all times. A service agreement for data?

What happens if Yahoo sells Flickr to a stock photo agency?

As I watch the demise of Technorati and Xing, I keep getting reminded of Adam Greenfield’s talk on “Everyware”.

As we used to say in Blantyre: Amakhala scared.

If you’re here and reading this. Thank you. I’m not here for the stats. I’m here to learn. So far the positive effects outweigh the negative bits by far. And I believe everybody needs to become aware of this ocean of data that surrounds us and become a social media expert of sorts.

Categories
africa blogger blogging flickr General Malawi-related Photos

How to Resize Photos

My family’s email account in Blantyre was blocked twice in the past week, due to well-meaning but over-sized Christmas and New Year email greetings. Attachments with over 2 MBs. The family is still on a phone line with a very slow connection rate. And downloading emails with a large attachment takes forever and a day. Luckily I can access their account via the web and move the large emails out of the way. But I thought I’d raise some awareness.

And point you to some resources describing how to resize photos.


Using MS Paint

How to resize your photograph by exact dimensions

  1. Right click on the image and select ‘Edit’. (This should bring up Windows Paint).
  2. On the menu bar at the top, select Image -> Attributes…
  3. If the image is a portrait layout, use a width of 640 and a height of 480. If it’s a landscape layout, use a width of 480 and a height of 640.
  4. Save the file. (You may want to ‘Save As’ to a different file so you don’t overwrite the original).

How to resize your photograph by percent

  1. Right click on the image and select ‘Edit’. (This should bring up Windows Paint).
  2. On the menu bar at the top, select Image -> Stretch/Skew…
  3. Change the percentages in the Stretch box for both Vertical and Horizontal. Make them both the same or else the picture will not be proportionate.
  4. Save the file (you may want to ‘Save As’ to a different file so you don’t overwrite the original).

Using Picasa

Resize by exporting

Exporting lets you resize your photos while controlling the JPEG compression (image quality) introduced by your applied photo edits. The result is newly resized copies of your photos, saved to any location on your hard drive. During the export process, you can adjust both the ‘Image Size Options’ and the ‘Image Quality’ settings in the ‘Export to Folder’ screen.

  • Under ‘Image Size Options,’ select the ‘Resize to’ option and adjust the size slider. The number of pixels you select with this slider determines the length or height of your photo (whichever is longer). The other dimension is determined automatically to maintain the aspect ratio of the photo.
  • Select the desired image quality for your photo using the ‘Image Quality’ drop-down menu:
    • Automatic: Preserves the original image quality
    • Normal: Balances quality and size
    • Maximum: Preserves fine detail for large file sizes
    • Minimum: Yields some quality loss for small file sizes
    • Custom: Enables you to select your own value

Resize by emailing

If you’re sending photos by email, you may want to resize then in order to get under the attachment size limitation. To change the size of the photos you email from Picasa, please follow these steps:

  1. Click the Tools menu.
  2. Select Options.
  3. Click the Email tab.
  4. Under ‘Output Options,’ use the slider to set your desired pixel size when emailing multiple photos. Use the radio buttons to set the desired pixel size for emailing single photos.
  5. Click OK.

Lazy workaround via Flickr

I sometimes use Flickr as a lazy workaround.

  1. Upload or email photo to the Flickr stream.
  2. Go to the photo page and select All Sizes.
  3. Select Small or Medium and click Download the Small (or Medium) Size.

File format:
Always use JPEG.

There are tonnes of other ways to resize photos with free software, such as IrfanView or The Gimp.

Within MS Word:
Don’t change the viewable size within Word (e.g. dragging the corners of the photo). Word will store the image in its original size. Resize the photo before inserting it into Word.

Adobe PDF:
Check the conversion settings.

Check the sizes of all files (Word, pdf, .jpeg) before sending them.

Be considerate and don’t send photos in their original size. Especially if you don’t know what type of connection the recipient is using.

It’s five minutes for you versus 30 minutes of expensive download time on a plain old telephone connection for them.

Categories
africa blogger Malawi-related marketing tech

Appfrica Interview on MTN Uganda

Just a quick note to point to an interesting interview with an official of MTN Uganda at:

Appfrica: Interview With MTN’s Erik van Veen – Part 1

These points caught my eye:

(…) revenues per user, are very low in Africa by international standards, and require a low cost operating model if the Operator is to be profitable. If you look at East Africa, new customers joining the mobile category spend about $4 per month ”“ that is not a lot!

(…) I see Asian, especially operators from the sub-continent, playing a bigger role in Africa as they have been able to survive in cut-throat, highly competitive, low tariff environments in their home markets.

(…) And then you have to deal with the cost of doing business in Africa. Infrastructure and productivity remain major hurdles that add costs to the P&L. Our own success, relative to other companies in most African economies, has backfired on mobile operators in Africa, where governments see these as an easy source of tax income. In East Africa, excise tax (read luxury tax) has been institutionalized within the mindset of financial ministerial policy on tax. Uganda has the 2nd highest tax burden on mobile services in the world, Tanzania 3rd. Just think about it ”“ in Uganda we hand over nearly a third of the cost of every call to the government. What a shame!

It is a short sighted initiative that is impeding growth of the ICT industry.

Very interesting read!

Quick side notes:
There was a recent article that Malawi is considering to add (or has already added) a 10% tax on all airtime. I can’t find the Daily Times article online any more (note to myself: make a screenshot next time) See this Daily Times article. (Unfortunately this link is broken in the meantime.)

There’s also White African’s catch phrase to keep in mind.

Categories
africa basel blogafrica blogger blogging marketing tech

Zemanta

I am learning a lot from the African blogs I am reading…

App+frica recently wrote about useful web applications for bloggers in developing countries.

In his list he mentions Zemanta:

Zemanta, which just scored a new round of funding from Union Square Ventures, is a huge time saving tool. It’s a browser-side plug-in that scans the context of your blog posts (even as you’re writing it) and offers up a ton of time saving shortcuts like related links, photos, wikipedia articles, blogposts and suggested tags. With the click of a few buttons it can help you format your post in a way that normally takes hours! For instance, if you’re writing an article about Google, Zemanta will find recent articles about Google from other blogs, photos, logos and more.

It works with all the major blog platforms including WordPress, Livetype, Blogger, Drupal and more. When I had an abundance of time (and internet) I would usually just do all those things myself but Zemanta speeds up that process significantly.

Zemanta analyzes your text and then searches the web to suggest related articles, photos, tags. For some texts, the results still need tweaking. But this is a cool tool and a sign of what’s coming.

Thanks App+frica for sharing. I hadn’t heard of it before. And I live in a so-called developed country.

Categories
africa blogger flickr Malawi-related Photos wordpress

Mulanje

I just surfed through lots of cool new photos in the Malawi group on Flickr.

Including these photos of Mulanje mountain by Lisa de Vreede:

Mulanje

Mt Mulanje

Categories
africa blogcampswitzerland blogger General Malawi-related tech

My BlogCamp Switzerland Talk

As announced on Twitter, I presented a talk on mobile technology in Malawi at today’s BlogCamp in Zurich to share what I’m learning from the African blogs and tweets that I follow on a regular basis.

I started my talk with a short intro on Chiperoni (I am a bridge blogger somewhere between Basel and Blantyre) and why I blog. How much I appreciated Alex Antener’s news stream published on a Polytechnic server during the last Malawi general election. Then pointing to White African’s blog post discussing Twitter’s decision to discontinue its SMS service to the rest of the world. I tried to point out the potential a “Twitter to SMS” service could have for Malawi, where most of the population does not have access to the internet or even a plain old fixed telephone line.

Soyapi Mumba's Blog: The Potential of Twitter in Africa

I described the current situation. And how this is changing with mobile technology. I pointed to Mike McKay’s blog post about a rural area in northern Malawi where villagers climb an ant hill to get a better signal.

In Switzerland we take a lot of things such as the excellent infrastructure we have for granted.

I shared some of my observations from my recent holiday in Blantyre, some data on the pricing models and how public wifi is being introduced in urban areas.

tnm || always with you

Zain Malawi - SMS text messages - Prices

I was a little shaky on the stats side of things, telecommunication regulations, as well as who owns the major cell phone service companies, TNM and Zain. I’ll need to do more research here. I might have got some of my facts mixed up.

I did refer to the new airtime tax that is being introduced.

Examples referred to:

This talk was inspired by White African’s and Soyapi Mumba’s tweet streams. Zikomo kwambiri. Keep on tweeting.

Flickr credits: White African, Hackerfriendly, all other photos are my own.

Big zikomo to Persillie and Mlle A. for reviewing my slides!

I enjoyed presenting very much (note to myself).

Oh and I forgot to mention my chat with a Limbe internet cafe manager during the talk…

Limbe Internet Cafe

Categories
blogger blogging

Meeting Mlle A.

panama kaffee

Last Saturday I met the elusive and mysterious Mlle A. at a coffee place* in Hannover.

Once or twice during the conversation there was a cross-reference to something I or Mlle. A. had written or linked to. And for me that’s one of the powerful side-effects of blogging: there’s a regular reader’s familiarity built over time.

* We were assured by an architect that the shop design featured in various architecture magazines a few years ago.

Categories
blogger blogging

Publishing, the future thereof

1 + 1 = the book (for web and print)

simple really

Categories
blogcampswitzerland blogger blogging

BlogCampSwitzerland on Saturday

I’m de-lurking on Saturday….

Hope to see you at the BlogCampSwitzerland

Categories
blogger blogging LIFT07 tech

Not new

At Lift 07 there was a panel on technological overload. The video of the panel is available here.

Update: Since Google Video is no more, the video can be viewed on Vimeo

Panel Discussion:Dealing with technological overload (Lift07 EN) from Lift Conference on Vimeo.

Fellow blogger Mlle. A. pointed out that this kind of discussion isn’t new.

A couple of days ago she sent in an article by Ann Blair on “Reading Strategies for Coping with Information Overload ca. 1550-1700” published in 2003 in the Journal of the History of Ideas.

As more and more books were published, academics worried about keeping up: they discussed the effects of reading manuals and encyclopedias or reading “only in parts”. And discussed strategies to classify information, added indexes and used cut and paste to arrange the information they received.

Blogging isn’t new either:

“Reading is useless, vain and silly when no writing is involved, unless you are reading (devotionally) Thomas a Kempis or some such. Although I would not want even that kind of reading to be devoid of all note taking.”

Interesting stuff.

Categories
blogger marketing tech

sakku.worker

haben wollen

Via this Flickr comment I heard that there’s a Sakku competition for bloggers…

I already blogged about Sakku bags some time ago. And I would love to win a bag. As a knowledge worker and digital nomad, I believe I’m the right candidate 🙂

I’ll write a review.

Take photos.

And test the solar cells where ever I go.

Categories
blogger blogging flickr General swiss tech wikipedia wordpress

nchenga’s Web 2.0 roundup: Links and comments

How many online services did you sign up for, use once or twice, and then never return again?

In my case, that would be lots of ’em. Some of them are really popular services like Digg or Mister Wong, where I just haven’t found a personal use case, or I’ve got a substitute or workaround. While some of them have disappeared, like leze.de or gada.be.

Here’s an idea for a blog post which I’ll update as I go along and find more unused websites in the backwaters of my Internet history.

Sites I tried, but which I don’t use anymore:

  • Digg
  • Mister Wong (I keep forgetting the url and typing mrwong.de)
  • MyBlogLog (I wanted to un-subscribe, but I didn’t see the corresponding info, and now I’m too lazy and too busy. I don’t like the automatic delurking. Sometimes I want to lurk around for a while to get an opinion on the site…).
  • Stumbleupon (I tried this once or twice, got really frustrated by the navigation and the tool bar, and couldn’t find a way to un-subscribe and leave).
  • Web.de (changed the policy for their free email service to make it unusable, a clear goodbye from my side.)
  • Blog-city.com (the hosted blog service I first tried out when I started blogging in 2003, at the time it had long and frustrating upgrade cycles, the reason that I moved to my own installation of WordPress)
  • Blogger (I read some Blogger sites… but I hate it if I need to sign in into Blogger to leave a comment, I’ve got about 2 Blogger logins floating around and I just find it cumbersome).
  • Bloglines

Sites or services that I visit regularly:

  • Flickr
  • del.icio.us
  • Gmail, Gtalk…
  • Wikipedia
  • Technorati and blogsearch.google.com (mainly due to lack of alternatives, I think there’s lots of room for improvement in both)
  • Slug.ch and blogug.ch (for the Swiss perspective)
  • Youtube, Revver
  • Skype (I recently signed up for SkypeOut and used it to call Malawi, very good sound quality, comparable or lower pricing compared to telecom carriers)

On the content side of things, I read:

  • Scoble
  • Dooce (you’ve got to have at least one mummy blogger in your Webtwodotoh portfolio)
  • Metablog.ch (although recently this blog has slowed down a bit… I guess, Matthias has a lot of other duties)
  • Climb to the Stars
  • Gapingvoid (all time favorite)
  • Google News, and I’ve set up Google Alerts for a couple of keywords.
  • WordPress and WordPress.com (WordPress goodness hosted for you)
  • Lorelle on WordPress

My favorite RSS feed by far:

  • Dilbert

New explorations:

  • Twitter
  • Stickis
  • Vox.com (they offer a smooth integration into external sites like Flickr. Pretty cool!)
  • Jumpcut (downside: another Yahoo! company…)
  • Afrigator (Blog aggregator for African sites, I like their crocodile icon!)
Categories
blogger blogging General

Benefits of Blogging

I like this summary on the Benefits of Blogging

  • Meet and greet
  • Self documenting
  • Self promoting (if you want to, that is)
  • Mentoring
  • Education
  • Giving back (I would say: sharing)

There’s also the side-effect that when I write about a topic it helps me to reflect more on a topic and organize my thoughts.

Categories
blogger blogging flickr General tech wikipedia wordpress

Blog resource links

Here are a couple of starting points:

Blog hosting

Three possibilities:

  1. Sign up with a hosted service such as WordPress.com, Typepad or Vox (fastest cos it takes all of 5 mins).
  2. Sign up with a webspace provider that already includes blog software in their package.
  3. Sign up with a webspace provider that offers PHP 4.x or later and MySQL and install WordPress on your own.

WordPress.org documentation:

Installing WordPress on your own server

The install documentation covers most setups. Installing a local copy using XAMPP or MAMP is useful especially during the design phase.

Other useful WordPress.org docs:

Importing content from other blogs.

Posting entries by email. As mentioned during the talk I set up a cronjob on my server, which checked at regular intervals if there was any email to post.

Templates galore:

As mentioned, setting up WordPress is fast, finding the right design theme will take a little bit longer… cos there are so many out there.

I like Scott’s collection of minimal designs.

My advice: get a theme which offers the structure you’re loooking for and then customize the CSS file.

Flickery goodness:

I cross-link to Flickr to add pictures to my blog, but you can also upload files and photos directamente into WordPress. Please note: you’ll need to resize for the web and your layout. I’m lazy: I use Flickr and Quickr Pickr.

You can also set up Flickr to post pics directly to your blog. Within Flickr, go to Your Account > Extending Flickr . Click edit in the section labelled Your Blogs and follow the instructions displayed.

Here’s an advanced user guide for Flickr, describing how you can post pics per email, etc.

On commenting:

All comments at this site land in the moderation queue and I check the queue once a day. I don’t always reply or write back immediately. As you’ll probably notice in the next few weeks, sometimes I don’t have the time. But if I do, I’ll usually reply online at the source – in my blog, if it’s a comment on my site, or if it’s a trackback, i’ll go see their post and add a comment in their blog.

I think the main point you need to get across is that you reserve the right to edit or delete comments. This is especially important if you’re moving into business blogging.

There’s the Lifehacker’s guide to commenting to refer to.

Commenting is a way to increase traffic and expand your network.

And remember to activate Akismet or other comment spam plugins.

RSS feeds:

Every WordPress blog offers a feed for entries and a feed for comments. At Chip this is:

http://www.chiperoni.ch/wordpress/feed/

http://www.chiperoni.ch/wordpress/comments/feed/

Again, there are numerous RSS feed readers. And your choice of reader will depend on your personal reading preferences. I use the newsfeeds reader included within Opera. Thunderbird also includes a feed reader per default. And there are numerous feed readers for FireFox. Please note: some media news feeds (e.g. BBC) send out entires every minute and will easily swamp you.

More high-level infos on the concept of RSS are available in this Wikipedia article.

Further background links:

The Corporate Weblog Manifesto by Scobleizer

Ten Tips For A Better Weblog

How To Blog And Not Lose Your Job

😉

Categories
blogger blogging General nutella-alternative nutellaalternative wordpress

The slides

Here are the slides of my talk that I just held at the STC Transalpine Chapter Conf:

They’re very minimal and short… but over time I’ve collected a lot of examples at the back of my head so that I easily managed to fill the 1 hour slot. The online demo worked well with the mobile access card I had (big relief). A little slower than WLAN but ok.

I’ll post a list of online resources on blogging, RSS feeds, and WordPress sometime soon.

A couple of complimentary links:

Buon weekend,
nchenga

Categories
blogger blogging CMS General wordpress

Blogging for Content Developers

At an undisclosed location in the very near future, the editor of this beautiful blog will be holding a talk on a high-flying topic yet to be prepared.

Blogging for Content Developers

I’ve decided to give this whole project a jump-start by writing down the outline in my blog… because getting started is always the hard part. The audience will be technical writers and communicators, but I don’t know how many of them are into blogging. I think, I’ll start with some questions like:

  • Who’s got a blog?
  • Who is taking care of a work blog (either internally or externally)?
  • Who is planning to set up a blog?
  • Who started a blog but gave up after some time?

2nd Section: Why blog?
Basically this section will include a little bit about my first blog at an ASP-like blog provider and the subsequent move to WordPress. My initial idea when I set out was to help cross the digital divide and point to content about my home country, Malawi.

Example of the power of blogging: During the last General Elections in Malawi, Alex at the Polytechnic helped to keep us informed by posting regular information and allowing Malawians to comment. In general, blogging has increased the amount of direct infos available on Malawi in the Internet.

Top reasons for content developers to start blogging:

  • Provide a continuous online sample of your writing skills, one of your top skills.
  • Learn about new technologies and keep up with development. Let’s face it: the world of publishing has changed/is changing. Blogging helps you to understand the ways and means, as well as the way online communities evolve and behave.
  • Use your blog to become a subject matter expert in your domain.
  • Expand your network (private and business). Get to know new people and explore new opportunities.

3rd Section: Why WordPress?
This section will kind of list my reasons to go for WordPress, but could easily be taken as a list of criteria to watch out for if you’re evaluating other CMS tools:

  • Open source and free.
  • Huge community and good support.
  • Lots of new features and bug releases per year.
  • Good separation between design and content.
  • Stable.
  • Good documentation (Thank you, Lorelle).
  • Lots of plugins and design templates to choose from.

Server requirements: MySQL and PHP or above

Knowledge requirement: some knowledge of CSS and HTML to tweak and customize a design template.

Section 4: Beyond the Current Blog Hype
Currently we’re going thru a hype phase. Everybody’s starting a blog.

Splogs, spam comments and cyber bullying/threatening are a huge problem.

akismet

Nevertheless, blogs are here to stay. Esp. mainstream media is feeling the heat. A kind of independent blog journalism is establishing itself and many companies are using blogs to reach out to their customers. See Krusenstern for an excellent entry on old, established media vs. blog journalism.

Millions of blogs are started and abandoned within 3 months. It’s not easy to write and communicate effectively. This is where I see lots of opportunities for tech. communicators (e.g. as Chief Blogging Officer).

Section 5: Your Benefit as a Tech. Communicator

If you’re a consultant/ext. contractor, use current CMS technology to enhance your work website. Blogging is a good way to make your business website less static. Example: I remember a conf where one of the participants was distributing tonnes of business cards. I had a look at the website afterwards and was utterly disappointed.

Use your blog to:

  • Point to interesting industry developments.
  • Voice own opinion on a topic.
  • Publish short howto’s, code snippets, tutorials, extensions, examples.
  • Link to relevant industry developments and use “Trackback” to respond to other blogs, which you find during your daily Internet watch.
  • Personal impression of conferences / shows.
  • Keep online notes of interesting website or talks you’ve attended.

If you offer focussed content on a special topic the chances of attracting readers are somewhat higher than with a personal blog. Frequency is important. To set up a readership you need to post at regular intervals. On the upside, entries do not have to be very long and you can post entries to WordPress via email.

Don’t move into blogging if you don’t enjoy writing OR if you’re looking for fast money. It needs some time to establish your blog and people lurk around a long time before they start commenting (approx. 200 visits for every commenter). But if you write about a niche topic and provide good content, people will find you.

Avoid the typical marketing glib and press release speak in your blog.

Section 6: Demo of a WordPress Blog
Show tags, permalinks, trackbacks, and RSS feeds (if there’s interest).

My Very Personal Benefit:

Thru my hobby, I know more about today’s publishing opportunities and learnt lots about CSS, which I can use in my day job.

I’ve got a new hobby and all the flickery goodness that comes with it.

I’ve found new friends and keep in contact with old ones.

I’ve got my own online reference (e.g. re-setting my ADSL router) and online bookmark site.

Section 7: Resources and Discussion
One very good introductory resource on business blogging is:

IMG_1794

The End

I’m tired and I’ll add more resource links later. In the meantime, feel free to offer suggestions or challenge my outline.

Categories
blogafrica blogger General Malawi-related

Malawi music

More crosslinking to Cy’s Film. Or have a look at the video:

Categories
blogcampswitzerland blogger blogging General

BlogCampSwitzerland

I attended today’s BlogCamp in Zurich; a so-called unConference because it organizes itself like BarCamp. But heh, we’re in Switzerland so it was fairly well organized.

I saw a couple of familiar faces. Maybe I should get a t-shirt saying “Blog conference tourist”… And I invited some of the Basel bloggers to the upcoming Basel Flickr group meeting.

Here are some short notes on the talks I attended:

Jürg Stucker showed a knowledge platform they’re using internally at Namics; it’s sort of like a wiki and blog combined with email functionality, i.e. you can post and email an entry at the same time. One of the questions asked was what would happen if it was turned off: Jürg said probably the number of emails would increase and probably some of the fun entries would disappear cos it’s not the kind of information you send around by email. Another question was is there a tool like this available out-of-the-box.

IMG_1705

IMG_1706

Stephanie Booth talked about multilingual blogging, the pain of translating blog articles, and the technical difficulties of using 2 languages in the same blog. And even in multi-lingual Switzerland, our language skills vary, i.e. we might not feel comfortable commenting in our second or third language. There’s a need to bridge the gap. Her suggestion: Post a short summary to give your readers an idea if this topic is worth ploughing thru or not. Write in a simple and concise style, if you’re addressing a multilingual audience. On the Web, the language barrier is the real separator: Swiss French bloggers look towards France, while Swiss Germans focus more on Austrian or German sites.

benbit gave a live demo how easy it is to hack into a web portal, thanks to XSS and JavaScript. His advice for users: don’t use auto login. Many companies are careless in the way they handle customer data. Even if they are informed about the security hole, no action is taken to secure the site. He suggests getting a tool like RoboForm.

IMG_1726

And in the final session, I attended Denis Nordmann’s talk on the future of podcasting. This was an honest overview of the current market situation in Switzerland, which is dominated by public TV and radio broadcasters. Business models based on advertising are difficult to implement, because in general advertisers are interested in regional markets, very few companies advertise globally. And secondly it seems that the big player in this market is somewhat hesitant to fix a “bug” in iTunes which would allow podcast platforms to find out more about their podcast audience, again valuable data for advertisers. Note to myself, check out the podcast platform at: hoerkolumnen.ch

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IMG_1739

My feedback for the organizers:
I’d prefer one day instead of two, and I think a Saturday is great.

Disclaimer: this is my interpretation and view. If I get something completely wrong, please leave a comment 😉

Categories
blogafrica blogger blogging General Malawi-related

Malawi bloggers

When I started blogging back in Jan 2003, one of my high flying and lofty ideas was to help cross the digital divide and point to content about Malawi. A goal I haven’t really managed to keep. But from time to time I’ve pointed to various Malawi sites. It’s great to see that the number of fellow Malawi bloggers is increasing.

There’s:

  • Victor Kaonga, currently based in Sweden, raising an interesting question “Is Malawi really poor?”. Victor is also writing about Malawi at Global Voices Online.
  • Cryton blogging from the UK about his studies and work and how life in GB compares to Malawi. I like the way he interweaves his texts with Chichewa comments. He’s got an interesting theory regarding soap operas. In my opinion the number of drinking holes is equally high in Malawi.
  • And Soyapi visited Yahoo! HQ
  • There’s another interesting blog collecting information about Africa’s connectivity.