Link blog pros & cons

My friend, colleague, and fellow blogger Dave Taylor wrote on March 7 about how he’s finally “succumbed” and created a link blog: Dave Taylor’s blog clippings

…A link blog is a way to use a weblog to share interesting links. There are lots of different ways to do it. I use the free social bookmarking service del.icio.us to create link-related content for all of my main weblogs. In this weblog, that’s what generates my “Latest Recommended Links” content in the right-hand sidebar.

For my other weblog, The Right Conversation, I save links (with relevant excerpts or comments) in del.icio.us and then use an automated system to compile and post a daily roundup of links. (For instance, here’s yesterday’s link posting from The Right Conversation.)

Dave points out that while having a linkblog fulfills some needs (for him and, presumably, his audience), it’s not exactly conversational – especially in his case, since the tool he’s chosen does not allow comments.

I shared my thoughts on linkblogs with Dave, and asked him to explain his linkblog rationale further….

(Read the rest of this article on The Right Conversation…)

Tricky Concept: Feeds Aren\’t Really \”Push\”

Yesterday I wrote about how feeds might play a role in emergency communication. I’ll admit, I thought I had a pretty good idea there. Well, I do have lots of good ideas, but that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally miss something – but then, everyone does, so there’s no shame in that.

Fortunately, one beauty of weblogs is that this type of publishing makes it very easy to correct errors or omissions, continue a line of thought, or just plain change your mind. I know that admitting or correcting errors is scary to some folks, so here I’m giving an example of how easy and beneficial that process can be.

Here was my error: Feeds are not truly a “push channel” for communication. I sometimes forget this because I (and many other people I know) tend to use feeds as if they were “push” media…

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\”This is an Announcement from the Emergency Feedcast System…\”

CORRECTION AND UPDATE When I wrote the article below, I forgot something pretty important: Even though, from the user’s perspective, feeds generally behave like “push media,” in fact they are not push media. This pretty much undermines the point of this article. See my Nov. 11 followup article which explores the issue of feeds and push media. Some good came of this, after all. 🙂

For the record, here’s my original article…


I missed the excitement this morning.

Around 8am MST, there was a chemical leak at a Lexmark facility northeast of my town, Boulder, CO. According to the Rocky Mountain News, workers at the plant were mixing epoxies when a fire started, causing a smoke plume with toxic vapors. Six workers were taken to the hospital, and four were kept there for treatment. Residents within a 2-mile radius were warned via reverse-911 phone notification to stay inside and shut their doors and windows as a hazmat team cleaned up the accident site. A major nearby road, the Diagonal Highway, was closed for two hours.

I live about 5 miles south of the accident site, and the prevailing winds here blow east, so I wasn’t at much risk of exposure. Around 9:30 am I went for my daily walk along the South Boulder Creek. Just before I headed out, I downloaded my podcasts for the day – including the Denver Post “All News” podcast, which has become one of my main sources of local news. I was listening to it as I walked. When I got back home, I worked.

It wasn’t until I saw this E-Media Tidbits posting by my colleague and fellow Boulderite Steve Outing that I learned of the leak.

This got me thinking: We need emergency feeds for public notification…

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Why My Feed List Is Soooooooo Long

Some people ask me why I subscribe to so many feeds. (Here’s my complete list, as an OPML file, which currently includes approximately 500 feed subscriptions.) Well, it’s all about how I use them. For me, different feeds serve different purposes.

On Nov. 1, Ross Mayfield contended in “Attention Saturation” that the maximum number of feeds a person can possibly tolerate is 150.

Obviously, that limit doesn’t work for me.

Here’s how Ross explained his limit, and my explanation of why I’ve vastly exceeded it…

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Using OPML for Thinking, Writing, Publishing

My dear friend and fellow blogger Koan Bremner has taught me yet another cool trick: If you want to publish a complex, evolving, multi-leveled document online, OPML is a good way to go.

What’s OPML? Outline Processor Markup Language is a file format for outlines. Specifically, it’s a way to use XML (extensible markup language) so that you’re not just typing in text, but actually describing how various chunks of text (or data, or links, etc.) relate to each other within a hierarchy.

The end result is an outline that looks rather like a book’s table of contents (TOC). However, imagine that the actual chapters of the book are embedded within the TOC. So if you want to go straight to, say, Chapter 6, you wouldn’t flip ahead to the page number listed in the TOC. Instead, you would just click on the “chapter 6” line in the TOC, and the text of Chapter 6 would open right there within the TOC. Any subheads within that chapter would work the same way – just click on them, and they unfold. Once a heading or subhead (“topic”) is open, just click on it again to fold it back up.

EXAMPLE: Check out this resource Koan has published on Transitioning from Windows to OS X “Tiger” – a worthy topic if there ever was one.

Here’s why Koan’s document, and the OPML approach which underlies it, is so cool…

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Blogs and Feeds: What\’s in It for Science Writers and PIOs? (audio)

On Saturday, Oct. 22, I was honored to be part of a panel at the 2005 conference of the National Association of Science Writers. This panel, “Blogs and RSS” was organized by my friend and feelow content strategist Merry Bruns. (Thanks a bunch, Merry!) My fellow panelists were:

With permission from all panelists and NASW, I recorded that session and I’m now podcasting it as promised. Sorry it’s taken me a couple of days longer to post it than I’d planned, but my original recording wasn’t that great so I had to do a fair amount of editing to make it listenable.

LISTEN NOW! Right-click or click-and-hold that link to download the MP3 audio file. Its about 17.8 MB and runs about 80 minutes long.

You can download my handout, too. It’s a one-page pdf document.

Public information officers and PR people please note: Although this talk was geared mainly toward science journalists, much of what we had to say applies as much to (if not more to) public relations.

Show notes, including an important correction I need to make: I was wrong about how I described a tool for monitoring web site statistics…

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Feed Me a Metaphor!

Many people are still struggling with the concept of feeds (RSS, Atom, whatever). I don’t blame them. Feeds are not exactly intuitive to your average person (even your average net user). The profusion of bad jargon, cryptic icons, geek elitism, and klunky tools for feeds haven’t exactly helped, either.

In my experience, once people grasp the concept of what feeds do, it’s then easier for them to understand how feeds work – which then helps them actually start to use feeds.

This is why explaining why feeds matter was the core of the talk I gave yesterday to a public relations group. I’d been asked to speak on the future of technology – and it seems to me that if people can grasp the feed concept and start using feeds, then most of the communication technologies that are likely to become crucial over the next several years will make much more sense.

Over at The Intuitive Life Business Blog, my friend Dave Taylor is struggling with a similar issue. I just read his Oct. 18 posting, “What we needs is a great metaphor for RSS,” and commented on it.

I agree with Dave, we do need a great metaphor for this linchpin technology/channel/medium. I’d love to hear what Contentious readers have to say about this issue – especially since so many of you have managed to “get” the feed concept that the e-mail alert service for this weblog is now on hiatus.

Here’s what I said in my comment to Dave’s post…

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Technology and Communication: What PR Pros Need to Know

(UPDATE Oct. 19, 2005: The talk went well, I think. You can listen to the audio recording I made of it today.)

Tomorrow morning I’ll be giving a short talk at an event offered by the Colorado Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The event is “Communications, Technology, and the PR Professional,” and my topic is “The Future of Communications Technology.”

Because the talk is short and the topic is big, I’ve pulled together a fairly meaty and non-geeky handout. Here are a couple of highlights from that handout…

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Get Your Google News Alert Feeds!

OK, this is old news. Admittedly, I was slow on the uptake.

I just noticed that you can now get Google News Alerts by feed. (What’s a feed?) Apparently this new service just launched over the summer.

So what? Well, now you can do a keyword search on Google News (a free service which aggregates news stories and press releases from thousands of sources). Then you can subscribe to a feed that will continually deliver to you a steady stream of new matches for your query. These results will come to you through your feed reader so they won’t clutter up your in-box.

Here’s some how-to info and a little background on the puzzling history of Google and feeds…

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