I Am Not a Terminal Blogger

Time BombIn the last 24 hours there has been a flurry of posts in reaction to an article on The New York Times, basically saying that the bloggers lifestyle is a fatal one. The article goes on to chronicle the recent deaths of a few more prominent bloggers and near misses from heart attacks mostly. In addition to the details about what it is like to be a corporate blogger and how much it is worth. They even mention a quote from Michael Arrington saying:

“This is not sustainable”

This may well be the case with the global giants such as TechCrunch, Gawker Media, ZDNet and others who are in a constant 24/7 race with each other to break the latest news. Even with a huge team and massive financial resources these guys don’t aways win. Yes it is nice when the little guy scores. Despite the fact that they will pretend that he didn’t.

Truth is that there is no point in trying to beat these blogging machines at their game. Why torture yourself? These machines have inside knowledge and get “tipped off” plus they do insane amounts of just poking to see if it moves and then speculate. Their reader numbers and influence makes people take notice regardless of the truth. A search for “rumor” on TechCrunch is a perfect example.

In addition if your a blog that has millions of page views a day and can generate a lot of traffic for companies, the fallout is that these are the blogs that are going to be sent emails about new start-ups, news or “insider information”. The “A-listers” are being used as another cog in the marketing machine. They are making money so everyone is happy.

I think that this means you can’t really have that great a relationship with your readers. Your too busy getting the next big story. Sure they might have a comments section and the “share this” plugin (or some variant) in order for you to participate in the “conversation” but they care more about you talking about them than they do about what you have to say.

In contrast I take a genuine interest in the communities around me. This for me has been the most rewarding part of blogging and podcasting. I actually allocate time and make a point of interacting with our community, especially with regards to the podcast. I have many listeners that are a part of my Skype contacts, twitter, Facebook not only as listeners but as friends. They all have something valuable to say and how much more valuable is that when they know that you have read it and responded to it. I care about them and the fact that they took the effort to say what they think.

But then I am not doing it for a living, maybe things would be different if I was. But to my thinking it is the community that follows you that matters, without them you don’t have much value. Either monetary or the satisfaction of knowing that what you are doing is appreciated. Some bloggers don’t even need this, they are happy with self contentment.

I also agree with what Steve Hodson said about the article. Steve detests the concept of the “A-listers” considers himself a realist and writes like one. Stating that there are plenty of bloggers (the majority) that are adding more value to the conversation by adding substance that the “A-lister” can’t because they are off getting the next story. And they are making a decent living doing it!

So for me the take home message is that death by blogging is not unique to blogging. There are plenty of individuals out there in many occupations that work too hard and forget about life. There are plenty that are dead as well. It is the corporate machine that applies this pressure or themselves. Sure follow the machine just don’t try and compete with it. Ignore the pressure and carve your own niche and community, make them matter and the rewards will come, if that is what you want. Add value to the conversation by providing substance, I get more by reading and hearing about reactions than I do the original story anyway.

I am going to let the machine do it’s own thing, kill em selves in the process and have an opinion about it when they do. I could even write for the New York Times one day.

Develop Flow Charts Easily

bubbl.us LogoIt is true that pictures and diagrams can say a lot more than words can at times. A flow of ideas and thoughts, related concepts or how-to diagrams are very effective. But they are problematic to make. Ever tried to produce one? Don’t bother because with bubbl.us you can do it for free on-line.

This would have to be the easiest way to create a bubble flow chart that I have seen for a while. Based on flash without the loud colours, very glad about that. I am starting to like flash more since I have seen developers realize there is a whole rainbow of colours out there and they don’t need to be flashing in your face to be effective. bubbl.us is a fast way to create these types of flow charts or diagrams. Features on offer:

  • Free
  • Very easy to use
  • Automatic or manual placement of bubbles
  • Drag and drop interface
  • Automatic scaling using the mouse wheel
  • Keyboard support for viewing
  • Contextual help
  • Save your charts

There are plans to add things like:

  • Multiple user support
  • Recording brainstorming sessions

A couple of gripes but minor are that while the contextual help is excellent the text is way too small. I also found that the drag and dropping of “bubbles” is not as precise as I would like. A bit of persistence pays off here and you eventually get it where you want it. Apparently you can print your creations but I could not see a “print” button.

I would have liked to have seen these promised features included before release as they may set them apart somewhat from other similar services. I would also like to see custom colours and fonts to be available. This would be great for creating a chart that will match your blog or presentation. Be cool to be able to publish them or send the finished product to someone as well.

I like the speed at which you can add thoughts or bubbles and then being able to edit them later. A very good way to get ideas down in a visual way to refer to later. Maybe create some mind maps for articles or a project. Or just brainstorm a how-to; add the steps at random as you remember them. Then go back and order and arrange the diagram that you want to use. Deleting bubbles is very easy and does not cause a “chain” effect on the others.

Nice site and the presentation is well executed. Include the promised features and you have a very cleaver on-line application that would have a myriad of uses and benefits. Slick interface and intuitive to use. Be nice to see some more collaborative type features. Results look great but could be improved with some minor adjustments. I would commend bubbl.us on the ability to preview the service without account creation, the way it should be done.

bubbl.us Screenshot

3D RSS and Websites: Not as Far Away as You Think

I remember as a kid seeing mock ups of this type of thing in films and TV. If you were to ask me back then if I thought it could ever be true I might have smiled. To my surprise today I have seen the exact thing that I thought would always be science fiction and it was not only fun but made me think of the possibilities.

The page created in 3D is the frontpage of Digg, Technology. Really it is a proof on concept. But in reality it could become mainstream. Sure it is not going to happen tomorrow. Nor is it going to happen with the technology that is the most popular at the moment (think mouse). But I could see it happening if things like eye tracking navigation ever take off. Being able to “explore” an RSS feed in this manner would be totally amazing. Mark an article read with a double blink… maybe. Combined with VR Headsets… Okay I am getting ahead of myself here. But you get the drift.

The thing that I could see happening and sooner, is further uptake and use of 3D controlers. They currently market these devices at the Google Earth hardcore user. But using the device to explore 3D RSS feeds or websites would be ideal and totally within the possibilities of today’s technology. I can see that this is where some of the market will direct their attention. However, it is a niche market in that it does not appeal to everyone, exciting at any rate regardless of the market.

I would imagine that exploring your data and things like RSS feeds in this way would involve a whole new level of thinking. I am not sure if that would be difficult or more intuitive. That would depend on what kind of helps were “built-in” to it. Notice the X and Y axis dots on this site? They are helps for finding your way. But in my mind I can see tags, clusters, sign posts and teleporting for linking content. Wow. Now this concept site takes on a whole new meaning!

So take a look at the page created by Michael Battle that has been expertly crafted and based on flash. A bit of science fiction (no-more) fun. I have had a think about where this might go and it really is exciting. Let your imagination go wild and think about what you would like to see. Because I thought I would never see it happen when I was young. Now I think anything is possible, so you might see something in 20 years that you thought you would never see as well.

Digg in 3D Screenshot

Skype Notifications

If you are like a lot of other users of Skype you may have noticed some strange happenings with your notifications. For the last month or so I have had no notifications when a contact comes on-line. I put it down to a glitch in Skype. But there is more to it than that. Don’t be alarmed though if you are one of the many affected, they know of the problem.

I have all my alerts on, although I don’t get any for contacts coming on-line. For that reason I miss people and that is really starting to drive me nuts. So about a week ago I tried to reinstall Skype. No luck. So I started digging in the notifications. I tried turning them all off, saved it. Then switched them all back on again. Nope. I also tried various combinations of logging on then off in between changing settings. Absolutely no go.

In my explorations I also noticed that some of the sounds had been switched off as well. I had not made these adjustments so it looks like this might be related to the bigger problem as the sounds directly correspond to the loss of features.

These sort of problems pop up every now and then in Skype. I had an issue with my Web Cam not being available during a call. It resolved itself using one of the above measures. The other thing that can happen is that it is fixed in an upgrade of the software or just spontaneously resolves. Who knows why or how. This issue has however been persistent. So I took further measures.

Usually when you “Report a Problem” to Skype you either get nothing back or you get the standard support response: make sure you are using the latest version, ensure that you your drivers are up to date and that your operating system is updated. Very useful. This time I said that all of the above was in place, I am glad I did.

It turns out that this issue is a known problem and that the Skype team is working on the problem and that it should be fixed in a coming build. They recommended that I keep an eye on the download page and apologised. I thought that was nice of them. Keeping an eye on the download page is a good tip. As regular users of Skype may know updates have been built into the latest versions of Skype. But they are slow to remind users that there is a new version. Perhaps the two problems are related given the advice? One other thing I did not do and should have is check the forums and this has come up, although it took some digging to find it.

Since I have had this problem for a while and that I know I am not the only users affected I thought it valuable to pass on. While it still bugs me a lot, not having a program that works properly; I am glad that they are working on it. Patience I guess. It is also great that I got a response that is useful and informative.

Omnidrive to Launch in a Few Hours

Omnidrive LogoJust noticed that the Australian Company Omnidrive is about to move out of private beta and go live. The service has attracted a lot of attention over the last couple of months and being an Aussie myself I am proud to give it a mention here.

Omnidrive is an on-line storage solution that offers a free 1Gig account with more storage available for a fee. 10Gig will cost you 40 bucks a year, not bad. Larger storage is available on application for what is described as a reasonable price. The latest on the company blog says:

“… give us a bit more time and we should have the sign up link there for you in a few hours, we will keep you posted on the blog here.”

Nothing so far, but the word is that at 0001hrs PST the site will go live.

The service offers a web interface as you would expect and also a client that will be available as a drive on your system. Correct, right along side “My Computer” (cool eh.). This sounds exciting. Seamless integration with your operating system. There is a client for Mac as well. The uploading and downloading of files works in the background and you can control the bandwidth so that your system resources are free to do what you need to do effectively.

All your data that is stored on Omnidrive is encrypted and safe. However, there is the ability to share your stored content in the space of two clicks of the mouse with anyone you choose.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about on-line storage solutions with the launch of services such as MediaFire, box.net, and Badongo. Omnidrive is the latest in a series of products that offer a similar service. There are a few things that set Omnidrive apart. However, this space looks like one that is going to be very hot over the next twelve months as the best of them float to the top. Expect to see some very competitive pricing and expanding services and feature sets. Competition is what will make the best of these services attractive and effective solutions. Watch this space.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch describes the service as:

“a product that I and millions of others really need… as good or better than anything else I’ve seen out of silicon valley recently. It has been in development for 12 months.”

High praise and I look forward to giving the service a spin myself. Perhaps you are looking for a superior online storage solution and might want to try it, looks like you could do a lot worse than Omnidrive. Plus the logo is cool.

Storage Mash-Up