BBS: Betsy Aoki, Lawrence Liu and Josh Ledgard

The final session of the day. (Fingers, don’t fail me now!) And the crowd is thinning out. Only about half as many people as there were in the room this morning.

Microsoft and Social Media: Lessons Learned from MSDN Community Blogs and Channel 9. OK. Like most of the rest of the world, I use Microsoft software every day. (I’ve even drafted this introduction using Microsoft Live Writer at 30,000 feet on the flight from Toronto to Seattle.) They are everywhere.

And I just couldn’t resist a session in which Microsoft’s social media types – Betsy Aoki, Lawrence Liu and Josh Ledgard – talked about how they started their blogging initiatives at Msft and the lessons they learned from their experience.

Josh Ledgard said that the doors have been opened to enable customers to file bugs on Visual Studio. This has led to a better relationship with the community and to product improvements as the bugs have been dealt with.

Lawrence Liu said that a community has been established for SharePoint, maintaing contact with customers after the marketing campaign has concluded. For example, the Microsoft team drew on input from the community to produce enhanced documentation with screen shots, something which Microsoft doesn’t normally include in their documentation.

Lawrence Liu reflected on the difference between buzz and engagement. It’s possible to generate a lot of buzz, but more difficult to translate that into genuine engagement.

Betsy Aoki pointed out that the amount of blogging around Microsoft products by people who find bugs and suggest fixes and work arounds enables the company to focus their attention to other issues not fixed by the community.

Lawrence Liu indicated that he is hoping to poll community input on topics that should be covered in screencasts for SharePoint.

The panelists offered much more information that I haven’t captured. Sorry, guys, it’s been a long day and my batteries just ran down. Not it’s back to the hotel to recharge and prepare for day two.

See you tomorrow!

BBS: Ben Edwards, Nicki Dugan and Betsy Aoki

A session on Corporate Blogging Policy with Ben Edwards, Nicki Dugan and Betsy Aoki.

Given that the Thornley Fallis blogging policy is a stripped down, “Blog smart and Don’t cause harm to any person,” I figured I could pick up some useful advice about what I have been missing.

Nicki Dugan is responsible for Yahoo’s corporate blog. Similar to other companies, employees were blogging on their own for quite some time. They developed a set of guidelines to provide some indicators of acceptable behaviour for employees. Some of the main signposts:

  • If you mess up, it’s your neck
  • Remember your confidentiality agreement
  • Be respectful of your colleagues
  • Get your facts straight
  • Provide context to your arguement
  • Engage in private feedback
  • Remember that whatever you write will follow you everywhere

The publication of the guidelines provided a sense of security to the employee bloggers. They understood the parameters of acceptable blogging and they could blog without fear.

Ben Edwards of IBM runs the IBM blogging program through the department of new media communications.

The IBM guidelines encourage employees to blog. It’s in your interest to get involved and to understand what is going on in this area. And it’s in the corporation’s interest.

The guidelines were developed using a wiki with input from the company’s established bloggers. The guidelines are posted on IBM’s site.

IBM also publishes a list of its outward facing bloggers on its Web site. The bloggers listed here are writing about things related to the company’s business. Personal or hobby sites are not listed in the directory.

Ben believes that blogging is very much a minority activity within the company. A lot of people find it to be too time consuming. He views it as a very useful information sharing tool. And it provides an archive of information.

Betsy Aoki joined Microsoft in 2003. At that time, there were a number of employees already blogging. At the professiona developers conference of 2003, there were a large number of employees who wanted to blog and continued to blog after that.

Microsoft still does not have a formal blogging policy beyond “blog smart.” This was a huge leap forward in executive thinking. The company could not tell you ahead of time what the right answer was ahead of time. The company was empowering employees to think for themselves and determine what the right thing to do and say would be. This allowed the company to evolve and to be flexible. Robert Scoble was able to use this approach as a means to speak freely in his blog. This approach has had positive impact both on the company’s image and on employee morale.

Ben Edwards pointed out that “a set of guidelines won’t get you very far. It’s much more a cultural question. You are empowering employees. … The key is cultural. And that means involvement from the top.”

Betsy Aoki added that “the main reason you should be blogging is for your customers. If you want a completely scalable way to talk with your customers. …. If you can engage with your customers. Interact more with your customers. Increase the loyalty of your customers, then you should do it. … So, the real question is, do your customers want you to blog. If the answer is yes, then you should do it.”

Question: Have the internal blogs changed the relationship between senior management and the employees?  Ben Edward spoke of the large number of IBM pensioners who were upset about the handling of a pension issue. A senior IBM executive wrote a post about this which received a number of angry comments. This was healthy as it showed a willingness to open discussion.

BBS: Mary Hodder, Dave Taylor and Halley Suitt

 RSS and Feeds: Monitoring the Blogosphere and the Buzz with Dave Taylor, Mary Hodder and Halley Suitt.

Dave Taylor led off. He posed the question, “How do you find bloggers who are writing about your space?” You have a choice of tools, including: google blogsearch and technorati.

Technorati ranks bloggers by authority – the greater number of inbound links from other blogs that they receive, the higher their authority.

With Technorati, it is possible to “subscribe” to a search. This will deliver new entries relating to the search term directly to your browser as they are posted.

An RSS aggregator such as newsgator online, bloglines or google reader is an absolutely essential tool to keep up with your RSS feeds.

Mary Hodder spoke about the difference between how Google searches and show results and the way that a blog-specific search enigne like technorati searches and displays results.

Google is best at measuring the “static web;” technorati is best for the “live web.”

Google is best for static web pages – pages that do not change regularly. Bloggers change their content frequently and a search engine is required that specializes in current information which may not show up immediately on the google search engine.

It is also possible to track images uploaded on flickr by tags.

Other possible metrics include the number of comments (some bloggers may not have many inbound links, but may have many comments. ) If you only take inbound links without looking at comments, you may fail to see the real depth of the conversation at the site.

Frequency of blogging on a topic is another dimension to consider. A blogger who writes frequently on a particular topic may not have the same authority on another subject that they blog on only once or twice.

Mary sees a difference between influence and real authority. Authority happens on a person by person basis. Each of us assigns authority. However, technorati will rank people high in “authority” – which really means they are high in popularity.

Halley Suitt showed several examples of Web sites that display RSS feeds differently. Some display them with XML chiclets. Some use the new RSS standard icon. Others have text links to the RSS feeds. For RSS to become mainstream, RSS must be displayed in a more standardized and prominent way.

BBS: Tris Hussey and Andru Edwards

Tris Hussey andAndru Edwards:tackled the topic: Audience Measurement: Quantifying and Qualifying. The program promised that I’d learn:

  • Buzz measurement tools
  • Do “hits” matter anymore?
  • Measuring inbound links
  • Using feedburner stats
  • Blogroll links, Pagerank, and combination measurement systems
  • Coming measurement services

Do numbers matter or is it how many people are reading your blog? Of course numbers matter. But they are not the whole measure of success.

A lot of people mistakenly look at the number of hits they get.

There is still not a perfect tool to know just how many people are actually subscribed to your blog. As recently as one month ago, changed their metrics as they realized they had been double counting some readers.

Why is it difficult to measure? For example, some metrics will measure several people visiting a site using bloglines as only one person – bloglines.

There is not one tool to rule them all.

Clearly, writing frequently will draw more traffic. And of course, better writing will draw more repeat visitors.

Do blogrolls matter anymore? Tris Hussey feels not. “It’s still a nice way to show your friends you love them. But they do not generate traffic any longer.” Andru feels that blogrolls can be helpful if you have multiple blog properties. It’s a great way to interconnect things.

Scoble pointed out that his Shared items in google reader feed is driving more traffic to blogs he links to than does his blogroll on scobleizer proper.

Tris suggests that, given the imprecision of existing stats, it is important to look at the trends, not just the specific one time numbers. Look at the rise and fall. What is the pattern?

Tris and Andrew recommend AWStats and Urchin.

Tris also recommends Performancing as a Java script tool tailored specifically for blogs. He also uses google analytics, which provides user friendly graphs and reports.

However, because no single tool is perfect, Tris and Andrew suggest that you use two or more simultaneously to get a good picture of what’s really going on.

How often do you get to see this?

Jason Calacanis & Robert ScobleRobert Scoble and Jason Calacanis blogging side by side at the Blog Business Summit.

I wonder if they were writing about this?

PodTech and Calacanis pioneering media philanthropy with podcast channel sponsorships of over $100,000 donated to education

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA (October 26, 2006) PodTech Network announced today that a new audio and video podcast show, CalacanisCast, will be launched on the PodTech Network with as the founding sponsor. The weekly show will be hosted and produced by Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs, Inc. (an AOL Company) and General Manager of (an AOL Company), and will focus on Jason’s insights in new media and technology trends and those of his special guests. CalacanisCast launches with over $100,000 in first year sponsorships that will be donated to the Bay Ridge Preparatory School, a K-12 private school based in Brooklyn, New York.

Jason Calacanis said “I’m thrilled to have PodTech and as partners. We’re going to have a fun time with the show, and help some kids in need at the same time. It doesn’t get any better than that”.

The media philanthropy model that the CalacanisCast show represents is a first example of a sustainable, high-quality media property that generates not only awareness, but monetary support, for philanthropic causes. Sponsorship revenue for CalacanisCast will underwrite the tuition of disadvantaged youth to attend Bay Ridge Prep, and represents the formation of the Bay Ridge Prep Opportunity Scholarship Fund. 

BBS: Halley Suitt, Janet Johnson, and Buzz Bruggeman

The next session was a panel with Halley Suitt, Janet Johnson, and Buzz Bruggeman.This session was billed as: Engaging with Bloggers: Working the Blogosphere. It promised to provide insight into the right way to approach blogger relations.

Halley Suitt: “For starters, can you please know what I’m writing about? Read my blog. … Everybody should take a month and read the blogs you are interested in and read them before you approach them. … Even within similar blogs, there are different perspectives and interests.”

Janet Johnson: “I was the person in the other seat two years ago when Jason started to rant against people paying bloggers, when Marqui did it. … It’s really important to have people in the blogosphere know what you want from them. If I’m a blogger and you want me to write about you, be very honest about what you want. Bloggers want to help others. But they need to know what you are up to.”

Question: What do you need to do to prepare?

Halley Suitt: “You need and aggregator and you need to subscribe to RSS feeds.”

Janet Johnson: “I also go out on the blog search engines and type in keywords and names. And then I find the feeds that are talking about the subjects that I am interested in.”

Imagine my surprise when Buzz Breggeman decided to show the audience how technorati search feeds work and what comes up at the top of the search for Halley Suitt? My ProPR post!

Buzz Breggeman: If you are a PR company that wants to pitch a company to help them, try their product BEFORE you call them.

Halley Suitt: If you are pitching me, include lots of data and all the necessary background.

Halley Suitt said that she had engaged a public relations agency for her company. And she was impressed that the PR people talked to her about a post on her blog. “They had read it. They showed they cared.”

Buzz Breggeman: “You don’t get points for shyness. You don’t get points for staying away from interesting topics. In my own blog, I only write once about every six or seven posts about my company. But most of my posts are about customers. What they need. What they are saying.”

“How do you engage a blogger? Read the comments. You’ll find whose interested in what topics. Most of the conversation goes on in the comments, not on the main posts.”

BBS: Jason Calacanis

Jason Calacanis’ keynote was themed: From Weblogs, Inc. to Netscape: Maintaining Authenticity and Integrity Within Commercial Social Media.

Integrity. I was looking forward to this presentation after the aggressive stance Jason took earlier in the week in response to Newsgator’s experimentation with advertising on Newsgator Online.

“Good morning. My name is Jason and I’m a blogger.”

There are all types of uses for a blog today – to express a personal view, to build a business or to generate revenue. A blog is like paper. You can make a book, a beautiful magazine or toilet paper.

(Justin Hall began the first blog in 1995. If you don’t know who Justin Hall is, find the movie, HomePage, and learn about the roots of blogging.)

“The thing that attracted me to blogs was authenticity. They are very real.”

The year 2003 was the year when blogs really broke through. That was a dark time full of mistrust of mainstream media (Fox News!) Blogging software already existed. And when a large number of tech people were laid off, the perfect conditions were created for blogging to break out – motivation, tools and people.

 In 2003, Jason was publishing an online magazine. And as he watched his writers go out and be successful with the then emerging blog outlets. And as he watched his traditional publishing business wind down, he realized that he needed to change. Out of this, Weblogs was born. At a time when the business model was not proven and when there was suspicion about trying to commercialize blogs.

Jason regaled the room with anecdotes of his seminal moments with other web and blogging personalities – some happy (Peter Rojas, Mark Cuban) and some unhappy (Nick Denton).

“We’re all outsiders. Bloggers have found their own space, they’ve made it the way they want it, and they don’t like when you screw with it.”

His deal with Time Warner was found on an understanding that Time Warner would never try to mess with the Weblogs content.

“The forces of evil: Whenever something great is made, the marketers come in. There are good marketers and there are bad marketers. There are good people in life and there are bad people. …. There are some bloggers who are great. And there are some people who suck at it.”

“Want to be an A-list blogger. Go to Techmeme. Look for the top three stories. Write about them every day. Go to the blogs of the other people who are writing about these stories and comment. Do this every day and attend every conference going. And you’ll be an A-lister. Write once every two weeks and wonder why you aren’t an A-lister?

 “Blogging is the biggest meritocracy in the world. It’s not broken. You don’t rank? It’s because you suck. … How well you do is up to you.”

“It really is obnoxious to look at the space and say it’s broken because you’re not doing well. If you want to succeed, do a better job.”

“Then we have people who come along – like Payperpost. Now we get into the evil part of me. … I care when somebody comes into this beautiful place where trust and authenticity matters. And then these people come in and … they get into trickery…. If you go selling your posts and not disclosing it, that’s not innovative, that’s lying.”

At Weblogs, “we maintain a church and state separation of advertising and bloggers. The bloggers know about the ads when they see them on the site.”

“I’ve been talking about the payperpost folks. And I want to go over some of the arguments. … One of the things we do best as bloggers is argue. … But it’s always with a smile that we debate…. But you can be intellectually dishonest when you debate.”

“One of the first arguments of the payperpost people is, “We’re just an enabler.” When you enable people to do something wrong, you are part of it.

“They make the other crazy argument that The A list bloggers are trying to keep the Z list bloggers down. There are no A list bloggers. Just people who’ve been at it longer.”

“Tim Draper, you put $3 million into a company doing covert marketing. What were you doing? … What were you thinking, Tim Draper?”

Final thing: “This podcasting thing is going to be big. Two years ago I said that I didn’t see it. I was wrong. … Probably 20% of what I write is wrong. But that’s OK, because we get there together.”

“Something’s going on. I listen to more radio than I ever have and I never turn on a radio. Something big is going on. … I want to podcast and I don’t need the pay cheque. I will be dong calacaniscast on podtech. Podtech and GoDaddy together have donated over $100,000 to sponsor 50 episodes together. And the money will be used to sponsor two girls to attend the Baycrest private school in New York City.”

Audience question: What about YouTube? “I was fabulously wrong about YouTube. … At the end of the day was there growth based on a ton of copyright violations? Duh. But at the end of the day, I’ll give them credit for threading the needle. … Unlike Napster, they cut deals with the content rights holders. …. I believe that YouTube will go down as the company that will be seen to have convinced content holders to put their content out there and then to figure out how to make money later.”

Audience question: Why did you sell Weblogs? “When to sell your company is a personal question that depends upon your shareholders and where they are in their lives. Our shareholders were offered a deal that would pay them for the next three years of their lives. They wanted it and they took the deal. … You have to look at these things on a personal basis and pick when you exit. … This was right for our shareholders.”

Audience question: How about if you are transparent that somebody has given you money for something? “Yes. Transparency counts. … But if you’re going to make a media business out of it, you never ever want anyone to be able to say that you benefited from the people you wrote about. … All you have as a blogger is your authenticity, your trust.
Fight, do not ever let anybody get inside the blog post.”

An entertaining sesson with lots of quality name dropping. Look for it on YouTube.

BBS: Jeremy Pepper, Jeanette Gibson and John Starkweather

Jeremy Pepper, Jeanette Gibson from Cisco and John Starweather from Microsoft kicked off the conference with a session titled What’s Next in Online Communications?

John Starweather led off by talking about Microsoft as a place to blog and a place to innovate. John is involved in the Mobius project which is developing new applications and platforms for mobile technologies. He believes that we will soon see even more useful applications for mobile devices.

Jeanette talked about Cisco’s efforts to use the new social media to develop feedback and communication with customers and users.

One of the audience members asked the panelists about their efforts to educate employees about the potential for engagement and how these tools can be used internally. John responded that he believes that most marketers have not yet grasped the full potential of social media and the changed relationships with consumers. As he talks to people internally, people are demanding data. And this is an area that must be focused upon. Good data to show what is really happening.

Jeanette says that Cisco’s CEO communicates with employees using Vlogs. They have an IPtv network internally. They’ve also developed an internal Wiki to share information.

A couple members of the audience raised questions about Second Life. One questioner asked Jeremy about his views on crayon’s Second Life presence. Jeremy suggested that Second Life provides the crayon partners with a presence in a single “place.” This overcomes the fact that they are geographically dispersed in four cities thousands of miles across. As such, it’s a clever move.

John suggested that the future will see mobile devices becoming as ubiquitous and non-intrusive as watches have become. Developers should watch this closely and be sure to design for the small screens of these devices.

How can social media be proved and sold internally? Jeanette suggested that she and her colleagues are spending a great deal of time trying to find indicators of effectiveness. For their web newsroom, they attempt to identify the social media opinion leaders and to demonstrate that these people will generate content that will lead mainstream media coverage.

There were no great new insights at this session. But is was a nice warm-up for the audience. And the best indicator for this was the buzz that began in the auditorium immediately after the session as members of the audience turned to one another and kept the conversation going.

Business Blog Summit – Thursday sessions

I’ve arrived in Seattle for the Blog Business Summit.

I’ll blog as much of the conference as possible. Sessions I’m hoping to take in today include:

And that’s just in the morning (whew.) In the afternoon, I’m looking forward to:

  • Mary Hodder, Dave Taylor and Halley Suitt, RSS and Feeds: Monitoring the Blogosphere and the Buzz
  • Ben Edwards, Nicki Dugan and Betsy Aoki: Corporate Blogging Policy
  • Betsy Aoki, Korby Parnell, Jeff Sandquist and Jana Carter: Microsoft and Social Media: Lessons Learned from MSDN Community Blogs and Channel 9

I’ll try to live blog each of these sessions (surely there will be Wi Fi). If I get a good connection, I’ll post after every session. Otherwise, they’ll come in a bunch whenever I can get a connection.

I hope you’ll follow along