Monday, October 20, 2008

Izea Blog Makeover!

The good folks at Izea are running a Blog Makeover Contest which I'm entering to win with this blog entry. I've never done a post related to a commercial product/organization before but in this case, they are a great company and this is a wonderful opportunity I can't pass up.

This blog, Spiral Scratch, is overdue for a makeover by a graphic designer. I created it over two years ago and it originally existed as a place where I could write during my frequent bouts of insomnia. So, the posts were personal, reflective and what you might expect from a sleep-deprived person...a tad inspiring but all over the map.

In the past six months, I've immersed myself in the world of social media and have really learned the amazing things that can be done with a blog, how they can become their own kind of forum, and I ache to move this blog from the personal & eccentric to the personal & professional.

I've begun this to a certain degree by changing the template from a beige, bookish, librarian model to one that is sleeker but I'd love to have a custom made logo and design even if that means I move my blog to another platform that would allow more customization.

I can't say I deserve this more than anyone else but I can say that the timing for a makeover of this blog couldn't be more perfect. The visual changes would be reflected in a refinement of content which would focus more on communication, social networking and the social impact of technology.

I've been debating for a while whether I should start a second blog but in this instance, I think a makeover, in style and content, might be a huge step forward that would benefit me and my small but growing readership.

To anyone who is curious, Spiral Scratch is a title of a song but 1970s/1980s band, The Buzzcocks, and refers to what a vinyl record essentially very long spiral scratch. It was also the name of my first radio show. I'm hoping that a visual and content makeover would help me bridge the gap between old & new technology as we discuss how technology is affecting our culture in both large and subtle ways.

Thanks, Izea, for considering this entry!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Stop Believin' Web 2.0?

In the wake of the steep decline of the U.S. stock market, there is a lot of breast beating going on online with tech experts saying that the financial excesses of some Internet companies and the end to easy financial credit signals the end to the social networking phase of the Internet commonly referred to as Web 2.0.

Entered as evidence is this video featuring staff members of Facebook,,, and a Wall Street Journal reporter along with their friends. These 20 people, who are sharing a gorgeous house in Cyprus, created a video lip syncing a Journey song filmed as they wander around the house and swimming pool, clearly enjoying themselves on a beautiful Mediterranean day.

Seeing these young entrepreneurs having fun on vacation while their own investment portfolios were declining in value was too much for some online journals including Venture Beat who titled their article, "Silicon Valley Lip Synchs While Market Burns" and featured a photo of the Roman emperor Nero.

Even more dire was the tone of TechCrunch which launched a brief jeremiad:

They leave behind an absurd video that would have gone unnoticed a month ago. But this week, with the walls tumbling down, they look like a bunch of jackasses who have no idea what’s going on back at home. And this video will always be associated with the end of Web 2.0.

Judge for yourself:

The irony is that here are 20 people sharing a house on vacation in Cyprus while other tech people were attending a conference in nearby Greece and all of these entrepreneurs have undoubtedly have taken equally, if not more, excessive vacation trips with their friends and family. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

I'm sure you could find 20 well-off 20somethings from a variety of countries sharing beautiful vacation homes at any point during the year. The fact that the majority of the ones in this video work for Internet countries does not signal the demise of Web 2.0 which is a cultural shift in the way we use the internet.

Yes, it is a little painful to watch people enjoying themselves while you are losing your shirt or, in my case, are unemployed. But feelings of envy & jealousy aren't a solid basis to make predictions about the end of the world as we know it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ms. Pop-u-lar

Two weeks ago, "PR professional and social media freak" Sarah Evans had a fun idea to run a survey on the polling site Survey Monkey to find out the most popular people posting on Twitter, or The Unofficial Top 50 Tweeples to Follow, as she called it.

Several measures of Twitter popularity already exist on websites like Twitterholic, a website that lists those people with the most individuals following them or the most people who they follow or the most updates/Tweets.

But Evans' poll required people—and one didn’t have to even be a Twitter user to vote—to type in the name of the person they wanted to nominate and assign them a category, not just to check a box on a predetermined list of candidates.

I’m not sure how I found out about the poll..I think someone I followed reposted Evan's original message. And when I went to the survey website to nominate those people I most devoutly follow, I found that some names came immediately to mind. They weren’t on the list of the most popular anything, they were just individuals whose Tweets I had found consistently entertaining, informative, or unique. With some categories (automotive? lawn?), I couldn’t come up with any appropriate nomination but I tried to list all of the people I regularly read, sometimes twisting the meaning of categories like “food” or “entertainment” to nominate people who talk about their dinner in mouth-watering detail or who are generally amusing.

Well, the list was released yesterday morning and I found myself ranked as #18 on a Top 50 list out of 2,500 people nominated. While flattering, it is an odd position for me to be in. I thank people who took the time to nominate me but I’m not used to being in a position of popularity (and recently I've definitely been UNpopular!). I have a mild-mannered exterior but I see myself as living on the margins, economically, politically, professionally, and intellectually.

Perhaps what caused people to like my posts was that I had absolutely nothing to gain by Tweeting, not personally, not professionally, so I was myself, for better or worse. I don’t even Tweet about my blog so I have not even been looking for new readers, I just talk about whatever is on mind at that moment.

I woke up this morning, 24 hours later, to find that I have 80 new people following me in the wake of the poll results and I’m in the odd position of not wanting to disappoint people who now might have expectations of me. I mean, if you get ranked on a poll like this, you must be at least “interesting”, right? So, do I continue to write about my cat, my insomnia, my obsession with the Olympics, my frustration with the Girls in Tech moniker, my surprise at Project Runway results, my furnace problems, or my wandering thoughts on sociological theory?

It seems like very mundane material to me. But when I look over the Tweetstreams of other people on the list, to tell you the truth, outside of a few Twitter celebrities (i.e. Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, Mashable), they are also mostly personal and ordinary. Maybe it’s not glamor or power that cause someone to visit a survey website, remember, and type in someone’s name but a simple identification with the ups and downs in the life of another person, when they are honestly written and shared.

I know in the scheme of things, this list means little (except new followers) but it is always an interesting exercise to look outside yourself and consider how other people perceive you. I find I’m often wrong and surveys like this are a good reminder that we sometimes need to shake up the preconceived limitations we have placed on ourselves and reconsider who we think we are to other people.

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