As you will see, :Ben Metcalfe Blog has a fresh new look (of course, if you’re reading the RSS feed you’ll need to visit the site to see some of the changes!)
What you are seeing (+going to see over the coming months) is me finally following my own advice as a blogging/online media consultant (well, that’s one of the area’s I’ve consultated in during the past year or so):
1) Stick to a vertical
In the past this blog has been all over the place – from pithy insights into the world of community, online media, internet technology, etc (what it should be) through to ‘ooh look my hair is red’ and ‘check out this funny video on YouTube’.
You guys are busy and I’m trying to maintain a professional standing in the industry. If you subscribe to a few hundred feeds as part of your professional work (like I do) it’s frustrating and distracting to have to wade through shed-loads of off-topic posts.
With that in mind, from this point onwards this blog will only be about professional, industry-related posts. I actually think it’s disrespectful to one’s readership to deviate from one sets out to offer as you’re effectively wasting their time with stuff you know is not going to inform or educate.
2) Define a clear scope for the blog
The problem is I have experience in a lot of different and diverse areas. I have interests and informed opinions on an even wider plethera of topics. I was tempted to start a number of blogs, but I simply don’t have time to post enough in any one area to make separate unique blogs viable.
With this in mind, here is a rough manifesto of my core areas of interest and expertise:
- Community: I’m currently a consultant specializing in community orientated approaches to product development, innovation, marketing and the like – especially with developer networks and other expert user groups
- Online media: Everything from blogging and grassroots media through to mainstream media and IPTV. This stems from my six years experience working at BBC News Website and BBC New Media)
- Platforms, Web Services and APIs: potentially the future of innovation on the Internet
- New companies, new products & serivces: I’m not TechCrunch but I like to profile new companies I discover
- Wider industry commentary: opinions are like assholes, and funnily enough I have one.
I also want to double the amount of links I put out, simply because the art of a good blog is not necessarily what you say, but what you give credit to by linking out to others.
3) Form better community within the blog
The sign of a good blog is when the comments offer just as much insight and interest as the original posts.
I’ve always been very bad at taking time out to respond to comments, and that in turn does little to encourage fresh commenting. Up until now I’ve generally been lucky if the number of comments on a post reach double figures. That’s despite very healthy subscription numbers, good traffic and a high Technorati ranking.
Even my wife’s secret personal blog gets way more comments than my blog, and the number of subscribers to her blog are barely into double figures. I’m getting close to four figures – so something doesn’t give.
As an aside, I’m kinda loathed to refer to ‘blog commenters’ as ‘a community’ because we know that a bunch of people who visit and comment on a blog is simply not community. However the challenge for me is to turn this into something more than just blog commenting and thus begin to form some kind of community out of all this. That’s the aspiration, and I have some ideas on this front – so watch this space!
4) Create a distinctive presence
I guess the most immediate change is the blog template. It was a little sad to see the ‘WhiteAsMilk‘ theme go. I think it’s a pretty neat ‘less-is-more’ type template, although it’s inclusion into WordPress.com as a selectable template meant that it became pretty popular and one started to see it everywhere.
The new template is still a few tweaks to an otherwise public-domain template, but I still think it’s the basis for a better identity that will clearly represent what my blog is about.
5) Lose (some of) the attitude
Ok, so this is perhaps the hardest one to level up to. I am generally a very cynical and pessimistic person. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, although it clearly is not in keeping with the ‘idealist attitude’ shared by many here in San Francisco. Well, that’s who I am, and actually there are some considered reasons why I find this approach successful.
However, out of that has sprung a snarky and confrontational blog persona that actually doesn’t represent who I really am. It’s gone too far, and now it’s time to get that in check.
I’ve worked in media long enough to see that anyone can create any false personality and persona they want… and once they’ve established it they can all too easy begin to grow into that persona full time.
(BTW it’s why I’m a little concerned for Sarah Meyers (aka the Party Crasher). She’s a smart young women who’s created this amusing alter-ego ‘the party crasher’, but she risks getting labeled simply as a snarky entity and otherwise disregarded in the industry.)
My overall objective on this front is for this blog to represent my true personality… and play to the quality of my insights rather than the controversy I can cause.
Don’t worry, dotBen’s not going away
At the end of 2006 I wrote that I was going to be ditching personal stuff on this blog come 2007. Since then I’ve received a lot of responses from people who have voiced a desire to keep across of what I’m doing personally and my non-work thoughts and rants, etc.
Well, I’m pleased to announce that “This is> dotBen” will be opening shortly. I’m currently putting the finishing touches to the template over on that one, but when it’s done it will be the home of my personal blog. Having a separate personal blog will allow me to write more about other stuff that I’m interested in without being concerned about wasting the time of my ‘professional’ readership.
And for those of you who find yourselves in the middle of the little Venn Diagram that is :Ben Metcalfe Blog vs This is> dotBen (yes, I love putting non-alphanumeric characters in my blog titles), I will do a feed splice of both so you can subscribe to a single feed and get everything in one subscription channel… just like the old days.
Well, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a prosperous 2007. I think it’s going to be a great one for the industry, and I can’t wait to start writing about it here on the blog.
Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe to the :Ben Metcalfe Blog RSS feed. And please do let me know what you think of the new look and the new approach!