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Do social media services kill the blog?

Answering Klout questions is sometimes difficult, as space is very limited and some topics require more in-depth discussion than the equivalent of 3 tweets – ask any regular on Quora! In most cases, I manage to stuff my collected knowledge into a couple of lines, but today Klout asked a very interesting questions that has been sitting in the back of my mind for quite a while now:

Are social media websites like Twitter and Facebook killing the blog? Why or why not?

The shortest possible answer is of course no – one letter shorter than “yes” even, and the right answer, too. So here's the little song I wrote:

Social media has changed the blogosphere: instead of commenting, a lot of users “like” or “+1” and the remaining discussion has moved away from the blog onto social media services. But blogs are a more important content back-bone than ever – the format evolves.

This line of reasoning requires a little elaboration: back in the early days of blogging, weblogs were primarily a means to document/store/share the websites bloggers had visited and found interesting – hence the name which stems from “logging your web journey”. In bold ignorance of the harsh reality our web fore-fathers faced, nowadays I regularly hear web-experts spread a different founding myth – one in which the first blogs were “online diaries”. No, wrong.

Online diaries appeared on the scene a little later, together with the first content-rich blogs: instead of presenting their readers with an extensive list of hyperlinks and very little additional information, the new generation of blogs would change the ratio of the two main ingredients: more content, less links. That's when commeting became a vital part of the blogosphere and comment-rating plugins, an early form of social content structuring, became popular.

Enter social media: platforms like blogger or wordpress.com took care of the technical hassle, but is was Myspace that took the blogging phenomenon to a whole new level in terms of numbers. We've seen a couple of first-generation platforms go and we've witnessed the immense success of Facebook and Twitter's increasing popularity among geeks.

Bloggers these days have stopped whining about the decreasing number of comments – the discussion happens elswhere, the prime content still lives on the blog. Several technical solutions allow bloggers to pull back discussions from social media platforms to their blog and/or use these platforms as distribution channels for their postings.

Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest and all these other empty shells are ever-hungry beasts that call for fresh, new, entertaining and stunning content. They host pictures and videos and short status updates, but they're far from a library of knowledge, tutorials and in-depth analysis. Social media is channel, blogs are a publishing platform – both formats co-exist and influence each other, but nobody's killing anyone. At least not today.

Geeky Folks: Barcamp Vienna Gallery

Last weekend's unconference at Microsoft in Vienna was the biggest Austrian Barcamp so far – the social media scene is growing, interest in social media platforms, new technologies and the paradigm shift in marketing has increased immensely over the last couple of months. This is not a big surprise: more and more people understand that the web 2.0 is not about a new generation of buzzwords that pollute the same old powerpoint presentations, but about a fundamental paradigm shift in the way companies communicate with their customers:

[nggallery id=15]
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The perfect Social Media Rum: Foursquare

GermanThis posting is also available in German.

found the perfect drink for tweet-ups and all kinds of social media gatherings: Foursquare spiced rum is way older than geo-location. The golden-brownish spirit is distilled in Barbados:

Foursquare rum

And this Foursquare is a lot older than the first GPS chip:

Foursquare is the name of the oldest sugar plantation (1636) in Barbados. It is home to the most advanced Rum Distillery in the world. Foursquare spiced rum is a combination of rare island spices and specialty aged rum blended in accordance with a centuries old secret formula known only to generations of the Seale family.

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How to turn WordPress into a Social Network Site

WordPress offers a fascinatingly wide range of options: thanks to the power and the creativity of the open source community, the world's most popular CMS has developed from a “blog-only” product into a multifaceted platform. Hundreds of plugins are waiting to cater almost every web publisher's needs. These days, two new plugins take WordPress to the next level by integrated elaborate social network features. BuddyPress is now available at version 1.2 which plays along well with standard WP-installations; the previous version required WP multiuser edition. And then there's Mingle, a new brilliant extension by Blair Williams, author of the (genius!) PrettyLink plugin.

Even though both plugins offer similar functionalities, they take a completely different approach at turning WordPress into a social network. While BuddyPress aims at running a stand-alone social network site, Mingle extends the community capabilities of nay existing blog. I installed it here on datadirt yesterday. Curious for a test-drive? Just click the new link Profile in the main menu! In the following posting I'll explain why extending a blog with social network features is generally a smart idea. Read more

foursquare.com + formspring.me = fourspring.me

I admit: this equation does indeed have more than one solution – the result could just as well have been formsquare.com. But it wasn't. And that's why the maximum mash-up for all geeks trying hard to keep up with the latest hype(s) enters the stage with a noisy, frightening BANG. There are many old sayings perfectly describing this delicate situation: An RSS feed in the aggregator is worth two in a web / A site and its RSS feed are soon parted & Better a big aggregator on a little domain than a little content on many sites. Can you smell where I'm getting at? Indeed: datadirt proudly presents: fourspring.me!

In case you have any questions about this new mash-up (which is so fresh and cool that even TechCrunch hasn't mentioned it yet) there is a dedicated contact address. I made an old dream come true and got me an e-mail address which is really easy to remember. (if domain.length < 63 chars than domain = NOT):

ritchie.blogfried.pettauer@I-have-a-longer-email-address-than-you-because-size-does-matter.org

In case you want an address (as a forward to an existing mailbox), just drop me a message.

datadirt Geek Supplies: Background-Template for formspring

Foursquare.com is getting gold: hype-searching geeks are moving on, and these days their favorite URL is formspring.me: it's a really simple q-and-a platform – kind of like Twitter, but without the 140 character limit. The service lacks a lot features, it's still in a pretty early stage, which didn't keep me from registering though: formspring.me/datadirt.

formspring.meThe setup just takes a minute: like on Twitter, there's the avatar pic, the homepage URL, a short description and that's it. When it comes to eye candy, formspring.me offers a couple of templates, but the more brand-aware user can also upload their own background pic – now in 2 minutes, because I've compiled a Photoshop-template that speeds up the process of creating a custom formspring template a lot. Read more

Synchronizing online marketing efforts

Traditional companies often have a hard time dealing with social media marketing – for many reasons. One of them lies in the difficulty of properly “synchronizing” their various online marketing activities. The following anecdote shows that in some cases public relations and marketing heavily disagree when it comes to chosing the right business partners.

Act 1: An online retailer is planning a PR event. The PR woman contacts me to tell me that this event is very interesting for my readers and that I should consider publishing a preview post. Happens all the time – but amazingly enough, in this case she was right.

Act 2 / different stage, same play: A couple of weeks before I had applied as an affiliate with the same company – they were listed with a large international network, the application itself just requires two clicks. Just a few minutes after the e-mail about the PR event (which was related to their product portfolio) and a couple of weeks after my application I received the following (text-module based) notification:

Your application for the partner program ‘XXXXXXX” with your URL-account ‘datenschmutz blog' unfortunately was denied.

Possible reasons:
* Your site does not meet the merchant's content requirements
* Your site is in an unfinished state or is not working properly

Indeed… the second argument is very true: my blog will never be finished, it's an ongoing project :mrgreen: I'm fully aware of the fact that two different people are responsible for these two fields – yet successfully “synchronizing” a company's online activity range is one of the main web 2.0 marketing challenges. This has a lot do with internal knowledge management and communication structures, and these factors have played a vital role long before social media existed – but there is one huge difference: social media points out short-comings in this area most effectively.

I know this may come as a bit of the shock: but the marketing, the advertising, the PR, the IT and all the other departments must start talking to each other and focus on a common strategy. Great remuneration awaits: it's called authenticity.

Dear Mr. datadirt, we’re doing research

Journalism students from the Dutsch university of applied sciences in Utrecht are currently conducting a survey about the popularity of social media – if you run a popular blog, the questionnaire probably already arrived in your inbox. All interviews with social media experts will be published on the crossmedialab homepage – good questions, I'm really curious about the results of the study and my colleagues' answers, just mailed mine to Wolfgang.

How long have you been working with online social media and what was your reason to get into this topic?

The question is: which online services do qualify as social media? Ive started using the internet in 1994 out of mere curiosity. A couple of years later I started working as a web designer for APA (Austria Press Agency). At the same time, 3 fellow students from the department of science of communication and me launched the platform medianexus.net a community site for publishing grey student literature about media-related topics. The project doesnt exist anymore, the site is archived in the Austrian National Library though. The comment function was one our most important features back than and even though services like Facebook and Twitter were lurking in the far future, we used e-mail and mailing lists for discussion and organisation purposes.
To me, there is no clear-cut between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 technologies have evolved, dynamic web applications did replaced static content. So the new tools fuel the use of social media, but the basic principle of enabling dialogue and connecting people has been one of the main strengths of the internet from the beginning. Read more

Invitation to the World Blogging Forum in Bucharest

GermanThis posting is also available in German.

Just before I took off to Andalusia I got mail from Mihaela, asking if I wanted to attend the World Blogging Forum 2009 in Romania as a VIP guest. Yes of course! Flight and hotel room are already booked and I'm looking forward to a conference a lot! The guest- and speaker-list contains a lot of popular bloggers who I'm glad to meet face to face, plus it's the first time I'm going to visit Bucharest. The organizers have invited the most successful bloggers from 30 countries to Romania to discuss the “ideas for a better digital world”:

The most influential bloggers in the world: The event brings together some of the most influential persons in the online media all around the world, in conferences and workshops aiming to establish clear parameters of the development of the online media.

World Blogging Forum 2009

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