Advice For Anyone Who Wants to Start A Blog

A few days ago, a friend of mine mentioned that she had begun PR school and asked for advice about what to do for the blog she was obligated to do for one of her classes. If you're one of those die-hard BlogCampaigning fans, you probably already know my thoughts on adding another PR blog to the over-saturated sea of PR blogs.

Back then, my advice to my young friend would have been that she should start a blog about something she cares about.

Now, my advice would be that they avoid starting a blog altogether.

Instead, she should start a Facebook Page.

Right at the start, she can populate this Facebook Page with information about herself (or her project) and what the page is about.

Since I'm pretty sure students in these PR classes are encouraged to read each others' blogs, she can then ask her follow students to 'Like' the page (a much easier task than subscribing via RSS).

Instead of daily blog posts, she can write daily status updates for the page. Facebook's newish tagging ability makes it easier to link to other pages, and isn't really that different than the traditional HTML links you'd include in a blog post. These tags have the added ability of ensuring your post is visible on the page that you tagged, potentially increasing your audience. Interactions on these pages (Likes, Comments) will be spread across the social network of her and her friends, encouraging further interaction and becoming much more visible than if these same interactions were made on a blog.

If she does all this, she'll have the framework for a 'blog' that has the potential to be more popular than any of her classmates. She'll also learn a lot about an increasingly relevant tool in the communicators' kit.

She'll still have to ensure her posts are interesting, resonate with her audience and encourage interaction. A supporting website with basic contact information and direction to 'Like' the Facebook page couldn't hurt, either.

What do you think? Is this good advice for a PR/communications student? If you're a teacher, would you give a passing grade to a student who did this instead of starting a traditional blog?


What's good these days?

I had lunch Rick Weiss a few weeks ago, and one of the things we talked about was completely clearing your RSS Reader (removing all feeds), unfollowing everyone on Twitter, deleting your friends from Facebook and basically getting a fresh start. I took part of that advice, and gave the blogs I do still subscribe to a hard look. Which ones am I actually reading? Which ones do I just skim over every day?

Here are a few keepers:

When it comes to learning about the latest and greatest technology news, you can't go wrong with Slashdot. Their short, microblogesque posts leave out the hyperbole and hype of those 'other' tech blogs and leave you with the facts, short and sweet.

I might not read every post on io9, but that's just because I don't have time. This science-fiction blog isn't just about space aliens and Star Wars, and often talks about the real-life impacts seemingly sci-fi technology can have on our lives. I'd recommend reading it for anyone interested in where we might be in the next few years.

Nike Sportswear's Facebook page isn't necessarily a blog, but they still pump out some cool stuff on a pretty regular basis. Its also a great look at a slice of a big company with lots of different divisions doing something interesting in social media.

The Simpsons fan in me will never get tired of the Eye on Springfield blog. They've really captured some classic moments.

Gaga Stigmata is a blog of "Critical writings and art about Lady technological breed of journal that intends to take seriously the brazenly unserious shock pop phenomenon and fame monster known as Lady Gaga." What's not to like?

Yimmy is a taste-maker of the photoblog generation, and I feel like images that show up on his site always end up spread across the web a few days later.

So there you have it. Mostly guilty pleasures, and an escape from the fishbowl.

Any other reading suggestions?


Oh, and I also read Ed Lee's blog. He's not just my boss - he's also a pretty smart dude.

Blogs You Probably Aren't Reading But Should: TorrentFreak

If you're into downloading music, movies and software from the internet, chances are you've heard of BitTorrent technology (if you haven't you need to get with the times - read the Wikipedia entry, then download a Torrent client and enjoy). If so, then you know that Torrents are one of the easiest and most popular ways to download and share files over the internet. As our world becomes increasingly connected and we turn to the online world for our entertainment,  issues surrounding file sharing will become equally important.

While I think that eventually we'll have a much larger selection of streaming, high-quality media and that we don't need to download as much using things like torrents, TorrentFreak is still a great look at what is important right now and will provide some great examples of how free file sharing can benefit content creators.

Some recommended recent posts are "Five File-Sharing Predictions for 2009" and their series about the most pirated TV shows and movies of 2008.

Check them out at or watch their online tv show, (most recent episode embedded below)

Do you use Torrents to download files, either legally or illegally?

Are there any other blogs or websites you think I should be checking out?

For more in this series, check out other blogs that I think you should probably be reading.

For a related article, check out this one about aXXo, one of the most prolific film pirates in the world.


Blogs You Probably Aren't Reading But Should: Future Perfect

If you're like me, chances are you've got a big list of blogs in your RSS reader and don't venture out beyond that to regularly read other blogs as much as you should. You get comfortable with the same authors and the same ideas. We've done posts here before where the BlogCampaigning authors update their blog rolls and write about why they're reading what they are. Similarly, Over the next few weeks I'm going to highlight a few of my favorite blogs that fall a bit outside the regular ol' social media and PR frame. One of those blogs is Future Perfect, written by the amusingly-named Jan Chipchase.

Jan works for Nokia Design to develop new applications that if he does his job right, "you'll be using in the 3 to 15 years from now." From what I can tell, a great deal of his work involves travelling around the world and looking at the way people in different societies use objects. Fortunately for us, Jan shares his insights via photos and short observations on his blog. I like reading it because he is based in Tokyo, and a lot of his posts focus on that city (I lived in the Tokyo suburbs from 2004-2005).

On the about page of Future Perfect, Jan writes:

"Pushing technologies on society without thinking through their consequences is at least naive, at worst dangerous, though typically it, and IMHO the people that do it are just boring. Future perfect is a pause for reflection in our planet's seemingly headlong rush to churn out more, faster, smaller and cheaper.

Somewhere along the way we get to shape what the future looks like."

I highly recomend that you have a look at his blog and subscribe to it, even for just a few weeks, to see if he challenges your idea of how we use objects in the everyday world.

Jan Chipchase - Future Perfect


Honda Gets It

Cheers to Honda for strapping on some waders and stepping into the social media stream by sponsoring a few sections on BoingBoing. Despite all the haters (read the comments), I support the move by Doctorow et. al. to allow a big corporate sponsor like that on their site. These people spend  hours and hours of their time working on the blog and as fun as it is, someone has to pay the bills eventually. If I had to chose between corporate sponsorship or a paid subscription to any of my favorite blogs

I'm pretty sure that eventually we will see this same business model applied to other forms of media. (I mean, BMW seemed to get it a few years ago...what don't the major studios understand?)

Oh, and its also a great chance for Honda to listen to what the world is saying about them in the comment forums and an equally great chance for them to personally respond.


The German Greens, Innovation and Blogs (or Lack thereof)

I came across an interesting article by German political scientist Franz Walter who makes an interesting observation about the German Greens and their lack of innovation and the accompanying reluctancy to use technology to further their cause on the website of the German newsmagazine the Spiegel. As Walter explains, the German Greens currently have nothing to worry about. questions of ecology arrived in the middle of society: Health, climate change, nourishment, these are all topics the middle-classes don't like to fool around with. Ecological imperatives move the minds of the bourgeoisie to the profit of the Greens who kept a rather low profile recently. Nevertheless, they'd reach about 10% at a federal election.

At the same time though the Greens don't give the impression that they play an inspiring role in questions of environmentalism, that they are the head of new sensibilities by way of supplying original concepts; rather the cameras always show the same faces of a remarkably saturated political circle: while the party seemed a bit shrill in the early years, they have become a political sleeping pill.

If the party stays as dull it soon might have to face strong charismatic competition. Walter cites several examples from all over Europe, in countries with different political cultures and demographics. In France the journalist and TV-show host Nicolas Hulot made almost one million French sign his "Pacte écologique" on the internet. Amongst them was Nicolas Sarkozy who, once becoming president adopted parts of the manifesto for his vision of a green France. In Iceland a journalist, Ómar Ragnarsson, and an author of kid's books, Andri Snaer Magnason, accomplished the prevention of the construction of a dam – again with the help of the internet. In Italy the actor Giuseppe Grillo, sometimes referred to as Italy's Michael Moore, was able to mobilize ten of thousands to protest against Silvio Berlusconi through his enormously successful blog.

Then of course there's the web-supported eco-populism of Al Gore, Leonardo Di Caprio and even Arnold Schwarzenegger; their staged environmentalism is another indicator of a trend towards an eco-charisma perpetuated by the media.

What is interesting about this comment is that Walter explicitly mentions blogs as a tool for the advancement of progressive politics and the dissemination of ideas. Interestingly enough there's neither a blog on the Green's official website nor on the websites of their chairpersons; all one can find is a (recently closed) forum, which, quite frankly, is pretty embarrassing for a party that formed itself out of a grassroots' movement.

The even more interesting question to ask is why there seems to be such a reluctancy to utilize modern technology to advance the party's cause and enliven it. Is it the schizophrenic attitude the Greens have towards technology? Is it due to whatever elements in German society that cause an unease with technology? Whatever it is, they better figure it out quickly. Otherwise, as Walter points out, it won't be the current chairpersons leading an innovative eco-movement but the host of some popular game show who's going to become head of the do-gooders.


Ron Paul's fundraising success

One of my favorite Norwegian bloggers, Jill/txt, led me to an interesting post over at TechPresident today about Ron Paul's recent successful fundraising campaign organized through blogs and social networks. Paul's supporters raised over 4 million dollar in one day, and according to TechPresident, "this is the first successful application of a fundraising tactic that beats email or an online-exclusive announcement". Read how Paul made this possible and how it will affect political fundraising in the future over at TechPresident.


Online Campaigning 2008: Blogs and Information mobility

Last spring, two hours after he used his Des Moines Register blog to ridicule a suggestion by a Hillary Clinton aide that she skip the Iowa caucuses, David Yepsen's phone rang."Senator, why are you calling me?" the veteran political reporter asked. It was the former first lady.

"I read your blog," said Clinton, who quoted from his posting while insisting that of course she wasn't going to skip Iowa.

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, Friday October 26, 2007

Howard Kurtz looked at how the “mushrooming number of political blogs on newspaper and magazine Web sites has altered the terrain of the 2008 election” in his excellent article Mainstream Blogs Open Floodgates for Political Coverage in Washington Post, this Friday.

In the article, Kurtz reviews how the creation and blooming of the political blogs on newspaper and magazine websites has changed the news cycle, and how this affects both political reporters and campaign strategists. Today, compared to Election 2004, “…journalists and political strategists find themselves sparring more and more over smaller and smaller items on shorter and shorter deadlines”, says Kurtz.

Whilst campaign officials have learned to take advantage of the speed and the information mobility that blogs present, “leaking favorable tidbits—a new poll result or television ad—and quickly disputing negative items”, journalists find themselves struggling with “the constant pressure to update blogs, thereby drawing more Web traffic, leaves less time for reporting and reflection”, argues Kurtz. “In the pre-Internet age, campaign officials routinely slipped reporters negative information about opponents, sometimes over drinks at the local watering hole. But they had to wait at least until the next morning for it to be published. That process now unfolds around the clock”. Many of the political advisors that Kurtz talk to in his article argue that they take even the briefest blog items serious because the information mobility blogs present is so great the within an hour a story could be everywhere.

The political communication is becoming a whole new ball game both for political officials and journalists. Kurtz article demonstrates just that, and I recommend you take time to read his piece.


ESA Gives Video Game Voters Network Website Overhaul, Could Use Some Humanizing

The Entertainment Software Association, representing the interests of of U.S. video game publishers, launched an updated website for its Video Games Voters Network in order to “increase the recruitment, education, and mobilization of video game players across the country.” The press release (via explains:

The response to the VGVN is overwhelming and dramatic―over 100,000 members, generating thousands upon thousands of letters defending video games. It’s impressive. Ordinary Americans’ passion for computer and video games is driving a desire to be counted and speak out. They are a political force that not only votes, but actively makes their voices heard in Washington, DC and in state legislatures across the country.Politicians who think easy political points can be scored at the First Amendment’s expense have to know that such efforts will be aggressively opposed. VGVN and the ESA would rather work in a collaborative and productive partnership to educate caregivers about how to ensure the games their children enjoy are parent-approved. 

The site includes a nice over-the-top trailer complete in first-they-came-for-the-movies-but-I didn't say-anything-style and also links to a Myspace profile – check basic social media.

While the whole approach is an applaudable effort there are some issues though.While I don't necessarily see the interests of publishers and consumers as mutually exclusive (coming from a country with a ridiculous gaming legislature and all) I'm inclined to agree with gamepolitic's view on the missing personal component. This could have been achieved by, you guessed it, an additional blog. Not only could it have been used to give updates on recent successes of the campaign to encourage more user involvement, but also to facilitate closer connections and to humanize the whole undertaking.

Furthermore what is missing is a regularly updated overview of lawmakers and their stand on videogame related issues so you know what your representative is up to.

Also the whole approach of giving users the possibility to send already formulated emails is debatable. Not only does it add it to the impersonal nature of the campaign but the emails might simply be seen as spam. As the Australian Federal Minister for the Environment, Malcom Turnbull explained in connection with Get Up! which uses the same method: "When you get 1000 emails, all in exactly the same form, it's not exactly as persuasive as a bunch of emails people have written to independently express themselves." On the other hand: This procedure also allows people who don't have the time to research all the right contacts to eloquently express their genuine concern.

What I really asked myself though was: When is there going to be a German version?


Subject: Greetings from New Zealand

From: Jens SchroederSubject: Greetings from New Zealand To: Espen, Parker

Hi guys,greetings from New Zealand. I'm having an awesome time here – despite freezing my a** off. Coming from Germany I should actually be able to withstand minus five degrees but I guess living in tropical conditions for the last two years kind of affected my ability to adapt to cold weather. Also: when I moved to Australia I never thought that I was going to be confronted with anything resembling ice or snow, accordingly I only possess light clothing and three token sweaters. My answer to that problem lay in the “onion principle” aka layering – when I went jet-boating in Queenstown I was wearing two t-shirts, two sweaters and two jackets. I found a bit hard to breathe, but I'd choose health over dignity any time.

Today I arrived in Christchurch again after a wonderful trip through the breathtaking scenery of the South Island: Snow covered mountains, rainforests, fjords, glaciers, all of almost incomprehensible beauty. Check the photos on Facebook: Pt1 & Pt2!

Since I didn't want to carry it around all the time and was moving a lot I didn't want to take my laptop with me. So after a long day of sightseeing instead of seeking entertainment and news from the internets I, rather extensively, watched TV. Something which I haven't done for ages. The result: I feel about 20% more stupid than before. I feel like a victim of CNN's agenda setting, since I have to passively absorb their programs without being able to countercheck their reports or consult a variety of opinions with the help of the extensive resources the internet has to offer. In short: I just don't feel empowered.I retain some empowerment respectively the ability to avoid Nicole Ritchie related news through my iPod. I loaded some documentaries on there before I left, one of them being “God's Next Army”, which deals with the Patrick Henry College, the supposed Harvard for the Christian Right. Watching this made me think that one of the reasons American conservatives have issues utilizing blogs for the purposes is the influence of these people – the main problem being that the bible is taken literally by Evangelical powers as if enlightenment never happened: basically not much of a difference to Islamic dogmatism with strong undertones of theocratic fascism. Now, the underlying principle of blogs is (ideally!) the concept of exchange and negotiation in a public sphere, a spirit of debate that leads to better outcomes, Espen's thesis being a case in point. However, if you're on a divine mission and take a dogmatic stand that doesn't allow for any negotiation and use debates to impress your view on your opponents instead of reaching for a greater good, this principle gets disrupted (yeah, yeah, I know... sounds pretty idealistic and unworldly, but I think you get the point. And since not all Republicans are adherents of this kind of Christianity but good old conservatives there are probably other issues, such as demographics, that complicate the adaptation to new technology).

Well, it seems that American conservatives aren't the only ones having trouble utilizing new ways of reaching the electorate. Even though John Howard released a speech on global warming on Youtube, the Liberal's Myspace presence still seems to have some issues – the main reason being John Howard refusing to create his own profile page because he doesn't want to lend his identity to a commercial organisation (which is, quite frankly, pretty ironic since the privatization of public services his party supported he lend much of Australia's identity to commercial organisations). Writes The Age:

Mr Howard's office today added a video on climate change to YouTube, but at the time of writing it had not been added to the party's MySpace page."They [the Liberal party] are not using their profile as effectively as they should be," said MySpace spokesman Darain Faraz."If you go on their profile it still says they've got 8 friends, and we know that they've had a lot more requests than that. It would be great if they started using it in the same way that other political parties have."The office of the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, has been busily adding friends to Mr Rudd's profile since Thursday. It listed 6058 friends as of this morning.The leader of the Greens, Bob Brown, has also embraced Impact, and his profile lists 182 friends.Labor politicians outnumber Liberals by more than two-to-one on Impact.The Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, are the only Liberal profiles being regularly updated with approved friends and comments.   

Espen, maybe you should come back to Australia and become a consultant for the Liberal's internet matters. Anyways, I gotta go, I already spend ages in this internet café. At least all this typing kept my fingers warm.

Talk to you soon! Jens

Low-tech Campaigning in Japan – Use Second Life Break the Law

If someone asked you to freely associate things with Japan you'd probably think of futuristic high-tech, bullet trains, cyberpunk, anime and all the fancy gadgets we always seem to get years later. But of all countries it's Japan that campaign wise is still stuck in the middle-ages:

It's a first for Japanese politicians — and perhaps illegal. In his bid for re-election, upper house member Kan Suzuki has opened a virtual office in Second Life. He plans to use SL to discuss policy and field questions. Hence, the problem. Japan's fifty year-old Public Office Election limits election campaigns to using only postcards and pamphlets. See, they didn't have Second Life fifty years ago. But! Even recently officials have ruled that web pages cannot be created or updated during campaigns. Suzuki's campaign is venturing into uncharted territory for Japanese politics, which is still based on white gloves and campaign vans.

Makes me wonder how they handle blogs of politically interested citizens who follow the campaigns and publicly exchange their views with others – would updating their blogs during campaigning be illegal as well? Could campaigns pay people to pretend to be independent while they support their agenda? Has Japan heard of astroturfing?-Jens 

Blog Campaigning: 4.4 The impact of blogs

4.4 The impact of blogs Lawson-Border and Kirk (2005, p. 548) claim that blogging did not have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2004 U.S. presidential election. They do, however, argue that the effectiveness of blogs was demonstrated in the election campaign, and that an emerging application of the tool paved the way for future campaign communication. But it was political commentator blogs, not campaign blogs that achieved this:

“Freed from the economic pressures, bloggers opened doors and created pockets of public opinion that pressured the mainstream into assessing the validity of stories the dominant parties and candidates might be tempted to suppress” (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 550).

The problem with many of the campaigns was that they, as with the introduction of any new media, used the tool without knowing what specific communication function it could serve (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 557).

“Some campaigns used them because it is considered hip, whereas others used them strategically or not at all” (Lawson-Border & Kirk 2005, p. 557).

Rice (2004, p. 4), on the other hand, claims that the Internet and emerging technologies made a “profound impact” on the presidential campaign.

“Online campaigning has revolutionized political communication, grassroots activism, supporter outreach, and fundraising. Ten years ago, the Internet was barely used in politics; today it is an innovative, informative, interactive, and a creative tool that transformed Presidential campaigning” (Rice 2004, p. 4).

Gill (2004, p. 4) claims that given the fact that people during the election were increasingly using the Internet to retrieve political content, it was no surprise most of the candidates included blogs on their website. A Pew Internet and American Life Project survey of the 2004 Internet users found that “40 percent of those online sought material related to the election” (in Williams et al. 2005, pp. 177-178). Even more interestingly the survey found that Internet users were not using the Internet merely to reinforce political opinion, “rather, Internet users who seek political material are more aware of arguments in support and opposition to their preferred candidates” (Williams et al. 2005, p. 178). Should we therefore assume that blogs at least have the capability to influence the decisions of some of these potential voters?

In an effort to assess the impact of campaign blogs in the 2006 U.S. senatorial election Erin Teeling (2006b) of The Bivings Group compared the number of winning and losing candidates who included a blog in their campaign. It turned out that of the 26 candidates including a campaign blog, 13 ended up winning and 13 ended up losing the race in which they competed (Teeling 2006b). Teeling, clearly assuming that the effect of blogs can be measured by a simple quantification of a winning-losing dichotomy, stated that: “This factor surprised me because I expected the Internet would play a more effectual role in this cycle's elections” (Teeling 2006b). In a commentary to the report she further stated:

“At any rate, Democratic candidate blogs, which tend to be a bit more well-developed than their republican counterparts, fared slightly better in this year's elections than Republican candidate blogs. Democratic candidates with blogs had a record of 11-5, while Republicans were 3-8. In the six races where both Republican and Democratic candidates had blogs (VA, PA, CT, WA, NV, UT), Republicans won 2 races and Democrats won 2 races, and Joe Lieberman, an independent, won the race in Connecticut. Overall, the average margin of victory or loss by candidates with blogs was 20%. This figure was significantly smaller in 2-blog races, where the margin of victory/loss was just 5%. I believe that these results indicate that there are many factors that contribute to a campaign victory. The presence of a campaign blog or aggressive campaign Web strategy may contribute to the outcome of the election, but will not be the deciding factor” (Teeling 2006b).

During the German general election in 2005, Abold and Heltsche looked at the attention of voters toward campaign blogs as an indicator for success of blog based campaigning. They conducted a two-wave survey among users of online campaign sources, recruiting respondents by posting a link to the survey in political oriented Internet forums (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 13). Their findings suggest that political party blogs lacked originality and did therefore not manage to strike the right tone to inspire voters (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). Only 17 percent of the respondents agreed to the statement: “Weblogs have an effect on public opinion”. 20 percent of the respondents believed that blogs were important within political campaigns (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). Not surprisingly, active blog users – users that regularly read and comment in all kinds of political blogs – rated the importance of blogs significantly higher than all the other respondents (Abold & Heltsche 2006, p. 18). In conclusion, Abold and Heltsche (2006, p. 18) stated that “voters perceive weblogs not as an effective way to influence the outcome of an election”.

Similar, a study of the use of blogs in the British general election in 2005 found that the impact of blogs was fairly limited. The study suggested, however, that some blogs might have had a PR value, helping candidates raise their profile during the campaign (Jackson 2006, p. 300). Some of the smaller parties claimed that their blog helped them put the Party higher up on search engines on a range of issues, which again helped make the parties more visible on the web (Jackson 2006, p. 300).

In conclusion the previous literature reveals that there is still a huge gap in the research focusing on how blogs impact the outcome of an election. So far little has been said about the immediate or direct effects of blogging on a particular campaign race or the outcome of an election. Less has been said about how we can actually measure this relationship. In an effort to generate a better understanding of this relationship, the paper will further present new data that views the subject from a blogger’s perspective.

The impact of blogs on the Irish election has piece about the impact of the Internet and blogs on the Irish election.

From the

FOR those on the outside looking in, dismissing as minuscule the impact of the internet and blogs in particular on the election is the easy option.

This, after all, was to be the campaign when blogging was to make a real push towards the mainstream, and when Irish politics embraced the internet to energise interest.

Yet, at first glance, it is difficult to argue that either happened.

Instead, the generally held view of bloggers being political anoraks or, worse, cranks, peddling their particular party line or trying to bulldoze you into submission with a raft of obscure 'facts' and ideology has possibly taken even firmer root.

And any attempt by the political parties to use the internet to their advantage tended to be in the form of YouTube videos that were largely only viewed for their 'cringe' factor.

But for those on the inside looking out, the picture is somewhat different.

"One of the reasons it's very hard to gauge the effect of the blogosphere is because the biggest consumers are journalists and they are also the ones least likely to acknowledge the fact that they use it, day in, day out," Mark Fealty from the political site Slugger O'Toole claimed yesterday.

On sites such as, party insiders and political junkies vie to prove their greater knowledge of the Irish political scene, their greater grasp of political ideology and their possession of more and juicier gossip.

But journalists and other commentators - their identities often masked by obscure user names - are increasingly using these sites and blogs as a generous resource, trawling for opinion and more offbeat stories.

"Of late I think that a lot of stuff that is discussed in blogs or found on the net and first discussed in blogs is finding its way into the newspapers," Damien Mulley of agreed yesterday.

"It's influencing the influencers if you like - political journalists are keeping a close eye on the area.

It clearly seems to be a consensus about the fact that bloggers are influencing the influencers.