You Think, I Think, We Think (Better) Together

March 26, 2008

Been reading reviews about Charles Leadbetter’s book We Think all over the place. Got to get my hands on a copy sooon (come on Rosie, hand it over).

If anyone is trying to get their heads around Web 2.0, social media, new paradigm thinking and all that claptrap – get a look at this. Lovely simple animation. I’m going to use it at the beginning of all my courses. Free event coming up soon to give people a taste of it all. Watch this space.

Guardian review here (including Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky) which also looks reeal good.

Shame The Big Issue review isn’t available online. A different and very valid take on things.

No wonder most journalist’s I meet are annoyed with blogging and What’s Going On with we-think.

No wonder I am compelled to work in and support this space.

So glad Rosie Sherry is in it with me (thanks for the video).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiP79vYsfbo&hl=en]

Free tech resources for social/eco enterprise – and others

February 27, 2008

Social enterprises and non-profits need all the help they can get. These times require us to think smart and work together like never before.

This year we plan to give this sector even more leverage. Thank goodness hyperlinks subvert heirarchy and web 2.0 allows smaller or less resourced organisations to take on the Goliath of global warming and social justice.

Larger organisations within the sector like Greenpeace and Oxfam are already doing good stuff with blogging. (I wonder if they are aggregating and editing together blog posts coming from around their stakeholder blogosophere? Might be nice for bloggers to see their posts featured on the “mother ship” and get some cred, hits and feedback that way…)

To start the ball rolling, here is a solid list of technology-based resources to help you take action, no matter what your budget is.

Conduct research

  • Survey Monkey - is our preferred tool so far. Lets you design, collate and analyse up to 10 questions for zip. Any other recommendations, just leave us a comment and we can update this post.

Fundraising

Build & host a blog/website

With a wide range of templates to chose from and inbuild content management, you can build, host and maintain your website with a £0 budget. If you need training or support, we can offer it, specially designed for you in dialogue with your sector. Apply for a free or subsided place on our tailored training programme if you are a micro enterprise poised to make a big difference. Just drop me a line.

Even with training included, your total outlay over the first two years might be half the cost of a simple custom built website, with nearly no ongoing costs. Whenever you want to change the site, you have the power to do it. In an instant. In your own way, in your own time.

Web 2.0 tools built to fit your ideas

Understanding Social Media

E-books, blogs, events

  • Authentic Blogging – search around this website to find out about blogging and other social media stuff. Our e-book on The Essence of Authentic Blogging is a good place to start. We will be doing a range of speaking engagements within social & environmental enterprise networks this year, so let me know if you want to go on the mailing list (website upgrade coming soon with subscribe for newsletter) or feel free to invite me to speak at your event.
  • Nixon McInnes - e-books on social media, RSS, etc plus their blog and regular speaking engagements.
  • Geek Habits for Non Geeks – will be veery useful. First one is on 13 March in Brighton, but register on upcoming to be kept in touch.
  • Video Blogging – a monthly free event (in Brighton) to find out all about the wonderment of video blogging. If you want to get started right now, check out Free Vlog.
  • Loads more around and regular, often free, events to support your learning and networking. Go along and see what budding talent you can find to help realise your dreams. Key word search Upcoming no matter where you live or just keep your ears and ears open. Getting an RSS feed from this blog will help you keep in touch too.

Online (dialogue) marketing

  • Video blogging – If you haven’t yet got the equipment or skills to produce simple, short video clips (and even a mobile phone camera might do), then get in touch with Beth Tilson and find out all about Video Blogging while you are at it. Beth’s sessions will be monthly, so get in touch and ignore the dates on upcoming.
  • Facebook Causes – love it or hate, it’s hard to deny the ongoing power of Facebook. Many causes have been fought and won with the help of Facebook. Decide for yourself.
  • Google Adword Grants – can take them a while to get back to you (we’ve heard 6 months!) but if you are planning a campaign in advance there’s no harm in trying.

Note re: blogs vs adwords and search engine optimisation – We still think an effective blog that optimises for the key words that matter to you is better than adwords, but that can take time to build up. Although one recent Authentic Blogging “graduate” reached No. 1 for her search in a few weeks with only a few posts! All depends on what your niche is.

All ’round good guys to know

  • Tactical Tech is an international NGO working at the intersection of advocacy and technology. They use their technical expertise to increase the impact of campaigns in social justice and human rights, but their resources are widely applicable. Lots on their website to explore. Work with Internet Artizans.

The list goes on and on. Many thanks to Jill for many of these. Just goes to show that posting a useful comment can really help grow a conversation.

More here at the ever wonderful Skoll Foundation… You have to subscribe to the Skoll newsletter. It is always helpful and let’s you see you are SO not alone in wanting to make a positive difference.

More resources for social/eco enterprises on Authentic Blogging…

Newbies Guide to Blogging

February 26, 2008

Nice simple, practical guide to getting you blogging right from Dustin Wax at the very useful lifehack.org. Mainly for individuals but the principles are the same for enterprises and others.

Follow the links to explore your own context and see the list at the end to extend your learning.

Highly recommended!

Check it out. 

Making your blog your website from scratch

November 18, 2007

Now a blog is a website, so this title might be confusing for established bloggers and net types. But many students think of a website as being separate to a blog.

This is mostly relevant to how they want their readers / audience to navigate or more through their blog/website when they get there.

So this post is about how to turn your blog into a “website” or about how to experiment with landing pages and where your blog posts sit.

Here’s an example of a simple wordpress.com blog that’s been cleverly set-up to look like a static website with a blog page as well – widgety goodness (another one of our projects – and a great one-day conference all about widgets in Brighton UK on 6 December).

It was inspired by the inimitable Lucy West from the Monday group, from memory. And I think Jeddah Mali wanted to look at this option too. So Jeddah & Lucy – this one’s for you.

Others might like to experiment and please always ask users for feedback, keep surfing to see what others bloggers and website creators are doing, and review your own experience against your intentions and goals from time to time.

To create a ’static’ front page (& move blog posts from the front)

1. Consider the user experience you are trying to offer.

What do you want to communicate? How will you say it, show it, make it look and feel? What emotions, ideas, thoughts are you wanting to put across?

2. Create a new front page (or use an existing page you have created, eg. “About”) (A)

That has words, images, links etc as you want your front page to appear.

(Dashboard > Write > Write Page)

(or Dashboard > Manage > New Page (see text at top).

Format it as you will. Explore formatting options eg. colour, bold (see last button for advanced text editing) and experiment. Remember to save changes.

3. Create a new page for blog posts to move to (B)

See above. Simple add in a title and no text. A new tab will automatically be created if your theme displays tabs. If not, try a new theme.

This might be called “blog” or “news” or “updates” or “musings” or “let’s talk” or something else depending on what you want to do with it.

4. Position new front page and move blog posts.

Go to Dashboard > Options > Reading. Select:

<A static page>

Front page <select the page you just created or chose “A”>

Posts page <select the page your blog posts will move to “B”>

Update options.
If you have an existing website

- Integrate / Embed or Replace your Exisiting Website

To give this title justice, the other points to be made are linked to discussions with Garth Spiers, Julia Dunlop, Trevor Cousins and Assuntina Cardillo-Zallo:

- You can integrate your blog into an existing website (more to come on options for that)

- You can replace an existing, static website. Simple create the pages and subpages you need (see Page Parent option when editing a page – the blue box on the right). Cut and paste from existing website, save and upload images. Keep checking that the user experience and navigation are as you would like them to be. It can take some time, but at least you will end up with a blog site that engages readers much more and can be easily updated, hence ranking higher with Google and achieving more of the vast potential blogs have to offer.

Additional help is available if you need support due to time or technical reasons. We work with good people who can arrange a smooth transition at reasonable rates, but you can just do it yourself if you focus or find a clever friend to help a little.

Julia and others from that discussion. Would you like to add anything here in the comments?

Syndication, RSS and all that

November 13, 2007

One of the essences of a blog or even a paper journal is that it is made up of a list of entries. As you add posts to your blog, you extend the list of post you have made, and when people read your blog, they are looking through the list.

In this post I’m going to dig into the list-ness of blogs and talk about how RSS is used to communicate about lists of things including blog posts.

Each individual blog post has a bunch of common elements. An author, a date/time that the entry was published, the content of the post itself (your wise words), categories, and lots of other stuff. If you are a WordPress user, when you write or edit a post, all this metadata is available on the right hand side next to where you write your words. We call this extra stuff metadata. Literally data about data.

So what?

Well, it turns out that because all your blogs posts have similar stuff in them, you can make a list of them, and all posts have these similar bits. And all of everybody’s blog posts have similar stuff in them too. We can make a list of your blogs posts, or a list of a whole bunch of blog posts together.

So, all this list-ness became apparent and people started getting excited about doing things with these lists, like:
* can I get a list of all the blogs I like together so I can read them at once?
* can I put blog headlines on my webpage?
* can I search through lots of blogs for something I’m interested in?

Okay, so to do this we need a standard way of making a list of blog posts. And that’s what RSS is. RSS (full name Really Simple Syndication) is a standard way of making a list of blogs posts (or almost anything really) and communicating it easily.

Feed Icon 28x 28

That’s the standard RSS icon above. You’ll see that where a blog is offering an RSS feed (most do). It might show up in the page itself, or in the address bar of your browser. Clicking on it will offer to subscribe you to the feed. Subscription here means that you are going to get your browser or another RSS reader application to go and get the blog details and be able to display them to you when you like.

Say you have twenty blogs you like to read. But getting to twenty websites is a pain. It takes too long. Well, if you put those blogs into an RSS reader, and it goes and fetches blog headlines and posts for you, and displays them together. Bingo, I can whip through twenty blogs easily. Or a hundred. It makes it easier to take part on the global conversation if you can read through lots of blogs easily.

So, that’s the background to this stuff. Next I’ll take on finding and using a feed reader.

Widgety Goodness 2007

November 4, 2007

home-graphic-widgety07b.gif

Wow, it’s been over a week since I posted. Loads going on with running the three initial courses (2 x mainstream, 1 x academics), developing our delicious new blogging course for business (social enterprises and others), invitations coming in from all over the place… and now, Widgety Goodness.

What is that you might ask? Well, if you have ever been on Facebook (ah, yes I guess the answer would be for most), you might have noticed all the applications you get sucked into using and sharing. Well, these are widgets. See previous post about what a widget is here.

Suffice to say, widgets are scorching right now. Particularly for marketing bods.

The Widgety Goodness 07 one-day event in Brighton 6 December is the first ever widget conference in the UK, and tickets are flying out the door. All going well, we’ll be doing it in New York next year.

I’m working as the backnetwork facilitator among other things, with the ever-happening Ivan Pope and co. I marked him as my “muse” in the relationships profile for backnetwork, which is largely why I took the gig. Ivan sometimes describes himself as an artist, entrepreneur, anarchist. How could I resist!

Editing yourself

October 21, 2007

Some serious bloggers like to show where they have changed a previous post.

See this for an example.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to do this, but I will be looking for more and more examples to help you develop your own protocols.

Gra – would you like comment?

The question was asked by someone in our Academics Blogging course, so we will look for specific examples of conventions evolving in that world. Please add a comment if you find any yourselves.

Using images

October 21, 2007

 Sailing in San Sebastian

Yachts in San Sebastian bay. Summer 2007

(That’s me at the helm – not blogging, just breathing)

 

Just briefly, here is the FAQ from Wordpress about using images. Because I did say I would blog it. So I did. So there.

Use lots of images. Photos, cartoons, illustrations. They make a blog easier to engage with. Collect them online, find them on flickr, take photos, copy them from other sites, make them link to where they came from or what they are about, make your own!

If you want to edit photos (to change size, optimize for quick display on screen, etc) use your own software (eg. iPhoto) or try FastStone (PC only at this stage). Mac or PC users could try GIMP. Both are free.

I’ll post about slideshows, embedding videos, podcasts, music and other audio visual content soon.

Warning: Editing images can get pretty geeky and technical, so go gently. The easiest way to get images working for you in the early stages might just be to right-click and save the interesting, relevant ones you find on the internet, especially if they are already sized right to fit your blog’s template and if they load fast. Then just upload them to your blog following the wordpress instructions above.

Technical Note

The image above was taken with a mobile phone camera (Nokia N70). It has been stored in iPhoto and exported as a jpeg, reduced in size to 250 x 333 pixels.

I chose a mobile with the best camera I could afford at the time, so I’ld  always have something handy. Was thinking of getting a new Nikon D70s Digital SLR with a big fat 18-200mm lense at the time, but gee whiz, I just don’t think it would have gotten quite so much use.

Incidentally, I have worked professionally as an events, travel and portrait photographer on and off over the years. My folio is here. I am interested in hearing from folk who have projects they would like me to work on… with proper cameras.

Adding RSS blog posts to a web page

October 15, 2007

If you have a blog and a regular website, often it is really nice to get headlines or a little bit of blog info into the regular website. You can put a news sidebar on a page, and give people links to go further into the blog.

Alert! This is pretty technical and assumes you know a bit about using php and html to build web pages. You don’t need to know this to be an authentic blogger.

[Read more]

Increasing traffic to your blog

October 9, 2007

Many thanks to Garth Spiers for this reference. Garth is a vital participant in our Tuesday night blogging group and a wonderful man (and management consultant/coach) besides.

Blog TrafficKing

I’m not sure about this approach to blogging, and perhaps the name says it all.

Makes me think about the movement of evil substances or innocent victims around the world, or is that just me?

But there are some useful tips and tricks that Yaro Starak has to offer, some of which will be covered in our beginners course but others will be more relevant to advanced bloggers.

Let’s have some discussion about it. My feeling is there will be as much here about what not to do as what we could be doing with our Authentic Blogging practice.

I guess it’s a case of how you want to live your life and make a living, and what’s authentic for you.

If it smells like another “Get Rich Quick” scheme, then it probably is. Our approach with Authentic Blogging is not such an egocentric one, but why throw the baby out with the bathwater. Have a look for yourself.

Gra, would you like to kick off the discussion?

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