BigFoot Blogging Conference Liveblog

I’m in Kane Hall, Room 110 at the University of Washington for the inaugural BigFoot Blogging Conference. I’ll be liveblogging intermittently throughout the day as interesting things pop up.
[10:00] Found a seat next to Sarah Massey of the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Sarah is really active in UW events dealing with startups and new media, including regular attendance at the Seattle Tech Startups meetings at the b-school.
[10:05] We’re running a little bit late. Colin Henry got in the mic and indicated we’d start about 10:15 AM or so.

[10:11] Fellow tweep Monica Guzman just walked in. I recognize her from her Twitter avatar, although we’ve never actually met. She’s speaking today at the conference.
[10:27] The elevator music stops. And, we begin!
[10:28] Don Reynolds from iCultur kicks the conference.
[10:30] Mashable is a sponsor. Mashable’s on notice.
[10:32] Sarah Massey gives a great intro to UW CIE, including information about an interesting thing called the Environmental Innovation Challenge.
[10:35] Karen Anderson is speaking: “Some Do’s and Don’t-Even-Think-About-Its for Bloggers”.
[10:37] Karen has three blogs. Cool.
[10:38] Great point about “The Big Conversation” – why some people blog. That’s me. I want to contribute to, and become informed by, the big conversation that’s taking place.
[10:40] “You don’t want them to think you’ve been murdered.” Sage advice.
[10:43] A shout-out to E.J. Dionne. I like her.
[10:44] Karen says “read other blogs”. I agree. If you’re going to be a writer, first become a reader. True in fiction, true in blogging.
[10:46] “If you see something unusual or interesting, blog about it.” i.e. “Don’t Futz Around”.
[10:48] Keep it short. Sell your post in the first three paragraphs.
[10:49] Use pictures:

[10:51] Karen says don’t rant. Mostly true, but my current rant is that Kane Hall doesn’t have outlets at the seats – only along the walls. The UW is on notice!
[10:55] Discussion of comment strategies. I’m actually very interested on this topic, because the “conversation” aspect of blogging is fascinating – asynchronous, written, shifting…I want to explore this further.
[10:59] “Get a life” – she tells me that she likes hiking Mt. Si. Now I really like her, because I met my (future) wife on a foggy hike on Mt. Si on February 15, 1997.
[11:02] Great point about using your blog as a way to help you get a job. Attention future employers: I love you very much. Hire me.
[11:03] Karen knows a guy from Microsoft that got his contract revoked because he blogged about Macs getting delivered to campus. Attention current employer: I love you very much. Keep me.
[11:05] Don’t waggle your fingers in customers’ faces (ed. note: especially the middle finger!)
[11:06] She talks about identity in the context of blogging. I’m not a big fan of anonymity – I think I’ve posted about this elsewhere on my blog.
[11:08] Poor raccoon!
[11:09] Great talk Karen.
[11:10] Question about how to distinguish criticism from ranting. Answer: is your post fair? Do you only occassionally get into criticism? It’s probably not ranting. Don’t be relentlessly negative – it’s a question of proportion.
[11:11] OK to add your blog URL when you comment on other’s blogs? Sure.
[11:12] A guy in the front row asks about two or three blogging platforms I’ve never heard of. I’m feel like an amateur.
[11:13] A question about publishing rights vis-a-vis short fiction that you might want to put on your blog. John Scalzi just won a Hugo Award for his blog writing. Wow! That’s awesome.
[11:16] Break.
[11:18] Karen has helpfully provided a list of URLs for items she’s referenced in today’s talk on her blog, The Writer’s Way.
[11:20] Are all Mac power cords that long? I have power cord envy.
[11:23] At the last Seattle Tech Startups meeting, Colin Henry was coy about exactly where he worked. This morning, Don Reynolds said “Colin works for Scotch”. I assumed he meant Scotch Industries or something. Then, three beats later, I got the joke. I still don’t know where Colin works.
[11:25] A guy a few seats down from me in the 2nd row ALSO has a red XPS M1330. The 2nd row is the über-est row!
[11:27] Tracy Record of West Seattle Blog is presenting. Find the West Seattle Blog here: http://westseattleblog.com/blog/
[11:30] They have a Crime Watch page. You can’t get more local than that. It’s one of their most popular pages.
[11:31] Tracy is admittedly low-tech (well, for blogging) – proving you don’t have to be an Erlang hacker to be a blogger.
[11:32] Wow. Their forum page has many tens of thousands of posts, only since last December. West Seattle is the haps!
[11:34] Transition to a news site happened during the windstorms of ’06. Echoes of Karen’s advice: blog about something unique, and do it now!
[11:37] 564K page views last month. 30 advertisers. It’s a full-time business for both Tracy and her husband Patrick. That’s really great. Coming on the heels of the RWW blogging income survey, that’s really interesting data.
[11:40] Their focus is relentlessly local. traffic, lost/found, etc.
[11:43] I’ll bet there is a business in auto-suggesting link URLs for phrases you type into your blog, to prevent the tedium of adding links. Tracy feels my pain.
[11:44] Attention Robert Scoble: you don’t need a $2,800 Canon DSLR to blog. Tracy has a “crappy” $150 Nikon that works just fine. In this economy, that’s great news.
[11:48] Interesting push for “thoroughness” – not sure I agree for blogging in general, although for a news site it’s probably indispensable. I’m a subscriber to what you might call the currying principle of blogging – take some information or insight, add some incremental value, and throw it back out there, without feeling like I have to cover every point. Maybe Twitter is having an effect?
[11:51] Bouncy letters!
[11:52] Andy and Chris get a shout-out: but only in relation to JB being deadpooled. Ouch.
[11:52] Comments: moderation is a challenge. Rules are important. On West Seattle Blog, you can’t judge someone based on their size (?). Interesting. Also race, gender, sexual orientation. Religion isn’t mentioned. Does that mean Scientology is fair game for ridicule?
[11:56] News: Paulding.com is a community site that gets millions of page views a month. Pauldingbat.com is a political site, that, since June 12th, is approaching zero pages views per month.
[11:59] I like the way that Tracy responds to user requests and recommendations as a key driver for her strategy. It’s a very agile approach.
[12:00] Yay Tracy! Very interesting talk.
[12:00] Question: What was your motiviation for going anonymous in the beginning? I think @aseever would enjoy her thought process. (small) shades of Kathy Sierra in an implied threat they received. I wonder if, in 30 years, Kathy Sierra’s terrible experience will be viewed as the turning point in the maturation of the Internet and in the views towards anonymity? Now that I think about it, MySpace and Facebook have probably done more to eliminate anonymity on the Internet than anything.
[12:07] SEO: do clear headlines. Post a lot.
[12:09] Readers may get used to the niche, and breaking out of it may be difficult.
[12:10] Break!
[12:14] There’s a seminar upstairs called “Faith and Reason in Christianity and Islam”. For the second day in a row, I’m reminded of Ann Holmes Redding.
[12:18] A/V issues so we’re breaking for lunch a little early. Mac wiseacre behind me blames it on Monica’s PC. Hey, if Apple were so awesome their stock would be higher, no? *zing*
[1:10] I’m back from lunch and have commandeered an outlet up on the right side of the room. The buffet was excellent, and they did something unusual but very helpful: they put the napkins and utensils at the end of the buffet line, rather than at the beginning with the plates. Note to all undergraduates in buffet science: follow this plan. It makes the process of filling your plate so much easier!
[1:12] Is it chillier than normal in this room?
[1:15] Memo to self: next time I’m at an all-day conference like this, bring a power strip. Many people will become my friends.
[1:17] I saw this driving in this morning – Nickelsville has moved to a parking lot right outside an apartment I rented in the mid-1990s. I overheard Don Reynolds say at lunch that he was going to drop off the extra buffet food there after today’s conference, which is a super nice gesture.
[1:23] And, we’re back. Monica Guzman of the Big Blog at the Seattle P-I.
[1:25] The core focus of your blog is (should be?) engagement. For a person in the business of journalism, that’s a revelatory thought, and a welcome one.
[1:27] Every presenter so far has mentioned Twitter.
[1:28] Gamers rejoice: she’s talking about Spore, Will Wright’s new mega-game. Evolution is alive and well in blogging theory.
[1:29] “You want your blog to be a cocktail party…with good drinks.” Amen. Patròn FTW.
[1:30] It occurs to me that much like the Body Snatchers, PowerPoint has infiltrated our entire existence without anyone really putting up much of a fight. That is all.
[1:32] Headline from the Big Blog: “Bothell Church hosts ‘Porn Weekend'”. Even Episcopalians aren’t THAT liberal. There must be an interesting story there.
[1:34] Monica posits that bloggers are organically discovering journalism’s objectivity. In an unrelated story, Ted Dziuba is re-launching Uncov.
[1:36] Use social media as a bridge to other people and ideas: Twitter, Facebook, etc. Have a personality, and show your human side.
[1:38] She talks about talking to herself in the 2nd person in a third-person anecdote (“So you say to yourself, Self, you should…”). Joe Biden would be proud!
[1:39] Yay for Twitter! She says “it’s wonderful”. Follow Monica at http://twitter.com/moniguzman.
[1:41] I’m imaging Emmett Watson on Twitter. Can’t quite get there.
[1:42] A note that local or smaller bloggers tend to cooperate rather than compete. I’ve found that this is very much true, at least in my limited experience.
[1:44] Shout-outs to Seattlest, Metblogs, and Slog, local multi-author blog sites with monthly meetups. She also talks about her Big Blog meetups which happen every Wednesday. She’s had anywhere from one to a dozen people show up.
[1:49] Great talk Monica!
[1:50] Great question about the need for self-editing while tweeting. She’s very conscious of it, especially since she’s now got her tweetstream live on the Big Blog.
[1:53] Monica argues that it’s not possible to strictly separate out work and personal life and still get the conversation she wants with readers. That may change, but for now she’s OK with it.
[1:54] The 12-year-old in the 3-piece suit is looking at a picture of a clownfish.
[1:56] Question about the relationship between journalism and self-editing.
[1:57] I’m reminded of a quote, I believe from the Desiderata: “Above all things, to thine own self be true”. i.e. I’m not a big fan of self-editing.
[1:58] Chris Pirillo has a huge sticker with a picture of his avatar on his laptop. That’s awesome.
[2:00] Question to Monica: how do you measure success? Answer “Good comments”. I like that she’s very clear in her own mind about the answer to that question.
[2:04] Break!
[2:08] Battle of the snarky T-shirts: Colin Henry’s “Nobody Reads My Blog” vs. Andru Edwards’ “I’m Kind Of A Big Deal”.
[2:12] Over-under on the # of iPhones in the room was 17, and there turned out to be 18.
[2:13] Andru runs a blog network he describes as “Maxim Without the Women”, which to me sounds like “Black Holes Without The Gravity”.
[2:15] I’m slowly figuring out that Andru is setting a snarky tone for his presentation. See above; I’m slow to catch onto humor.
[2:21] Yet another Twitter mention. Andru thinks you shouldn’t use Twitter as an aggregator or as a way to push your blog posts, which I totally agree with (Hello, @mashable!). And he doesn’t like using Twitter to ask for Diggs (Hello, @centernetworks!).
[2:26] And we’re done.
[2:26] Question about how important design is really. Mentions of Craig’s List, Amazon, and the Drudge Report as counterexamples. Andru is on design #4 at Gear Live, and he sees big traffic numbers after every redesign.
[2:27] Andru quit his job in early 2005 and he was making more money after three weeks than he was working at his full-time job. He’s now making $35 CPM.
[2:36] Question about Feedburner. I should sign up for Feedburner.
[2:41] Nice comment about work-life balance.
[2:42] “Give your readers what they want.” Echoing several of the other presenters. It occurs to me I have no idea why my readers read my blog, other than that they may personally know me.
[2:44] Nice talk Andru.
[2:44] Up next: Chris Pirillo from Gnomedex.
[2:49] Chris Pirillo begins. “I’m not really a speaker, more of a talker.” Excellent.
[2:51] Chris is livecasting to all of his various social media outlets. Jesus, there must be 50 places he’s posting his photo. Awesome!
[2:54] We’re saved from the curse of PowerPoint, and cursed with Keynote instead.
[2:55] Shout-out to Stephen T. Colbert, DFA. “Truthy” is going to be ageless.
[2:56] Keynote has better default transitions than PowerPoint.
[2:57] GrokDotCom (and others) has made inroads into the online marketing conciousness – he’s going to focus on the Attention Metric.
[2:59] “Sharing is Caring” (ed note: what does this make the “overshare”?)
[3:00] I’m getting a little thrown off by the zenlike koans in this presentation. Chris is like 1,000 times smarter than me.
[3:02] Excellent! Who cares if your content sucks? Don’t worry about it. My addition: you learn to write well by first writing poorly, and frequently. Eventually you get better.
[3:03] “Your brand is no longer your own”. Interesting point w/r/t Crowdify. Have to think about that one.
[3:05] Superman II reference. That’s massively old-school.
[3:06] If nothing else, this has been a great advertisement for Pixelpipe, which looks like an awesome tool.
[3:08] Demo of geeks.pirillo.com, a Ning whitelabel social network for … you guessed it … geeks.
[3:15] Chris throws out a Bushism with “terms of cervix”. I want to be the #1 Google result for the phrase “terms of cervix.” Terms of cervix: you read it here first!
[3:17] “A community platform should be treated like a game.” Hm.
[3:19] I just realized what I’m missing here – the theme of the talk. What the relevance to blogging qua blogging?
[3:21] I think to really understand Twitter at a fundamental level, you have to be somewhat self-centered or perhaps obtuse. When you start to think about how your tweets will be perceived, I think you miss the point.
[3:26] Chris made the point that the medium is not the message, and I asked a question about it to clarify my understanding of it. I happen to disagree with Chris: in my opinion, the medium can dramatically shape the message, and shape the conversation. Blogging is as different a way to present journalism as Twitter is to blogging. Video opens up other paths, podcasting still others, and the message is (again, in my opinion) unavoidably altered in new and interesting ways.
[3:31] You have to love his enthusiasm and unabashed embrace of geekdom.
[3:35] 12,000 people watched a YouTube video of Chris unpacking a box. McCain would have run a negative ad lambasting him as a celebrity.
[3:40] My interpretation of Chris’ relationship with his audience is that he inspires, and is in turn inspired by, his audience, but that he doesn’t attempt – at any level – to consciously mold himself or his content to the audience.
[3:43] Surreal Life in the Digital World: Monica Guzman, whom I have never actually met in real life, is sitting ten feet from me and has just submitted a comment about this post, responding to my liveblog of her presentation.
[3:48] Now for the presenter roundtable.
[3:55] Great quote from Karen: Calling someone a blogger is like calling a plumber a “wrencher”. i.e. the tool is not the important thing.
[3:56] Good feedback to my question: Does the format actually alter the message? A couple of yes answers. I feel very strongly about that theory. There are interesting questions about legitimacy of the information you’re receiving in a constantly evolving conversation. But, if you don’t treat the internet as the Encyclopedia Brittanica, why worry?
[3:59] Question about long-form blogging. Most people are in favor of short posts, but interestingly, most of the best conversations have occurred around longer posts.
[4:01] I don’t know why, but I’m reminded all of a sudden of the Futurama episode where Fry gets a robot Lucy Liu, and Robot-Lucy says, “Oh, I love you so much…*PHILIP J. FRY*”
[4:04] Chris Pirillo: “I turned a personality disorder into a career”. You and Carrot Top, my friend.
[4:07] Andru is an OmniFocus user. Could he be a GTD fanboy like me?
[4:09] Good question about whether or not you should be establishing a personal brand outside of your professional work – specifically directed at Monica, who works for the P-I. She loves the P-I and sees a way forward for the industry. My comment: if newspapers can find a way forward, it will be in large part because of aggressive experiments like the Big Blog.
[4:14] Question about the P-I reader blogs, which apparently don’t pay anything.
[4:15] Good comment from the audience about writing being a skill – and if you have the skill, you should be able to get paid for it.
[4:18] Karen Anderson – “it’s amazing how many of the great bloggers are instinctively great writers, and further, who have the discipline to edit their own copy.”
[4:23] The consensus is that blogging will be everywhere in the future.
[4:26] Question from the audience: What’s your favorite blogging platform? In response, Chris Pirillo Starts War With Drupal Developers! He says it’s OK, because, much like Osama Bin Laden, “they never leave their caves”. Ha ha!
[4:29] What blogs can you not live without? Monica gives a shout-out to Ben Smith at Politico. I agree – he’s good. Andru says MacRumors. Tracy calls out LostRemote. Karen says ICanHazCheezburger and half the heads in the room explode. After the mess is cleaned up, she says The Sartorialist. Chris refuses to be pinned down on an answer – I sense a trend. I personally would answer FiveThirtyEight.com, until November 5th anyway.
[4:35] Chris Pirillo refers to the focus on Twitter follower numbers as “The Scoble Effect.” Its truthy!
[4:36] I just missed some huge joke. Damn!
[4:37] Karen doesn’t follow you on Twitter if you have “SEO” in your blurb. Forewarned is forearmed!
[4:39] Wrap-up by Don Reynolds. He’s actively looking for feedback. Send comments to blogfeedback@icultur.com
[4:40] And, we’re done. Great conference – I’ll be back next year for sure.

2 Responses to “BigFoot Blogging Conference Liveblog”


  1. 1 Monica Guzman October 11, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Wow — great live blog! The questions about self-editing after my talk really got me thinking. I agree with you that self-editing stinks on principle. But some of have to accept the boundaries of the working world. And I’ll say this: I LOVE my profession, but sometimes I HATE that I can’t engage in political discussions online, especially these days. I accept it, I understand it, but a part of me laments it. Like I said, so far what I can say is enough. I have lots of fun. Once that changes, I might have to rethink things.

  2. 2 ericpratum October 11, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Great live blog. Favorite quote: “Calling a person a blogger is like calling a plumber a wrencher.”


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