Category Archives: blog

Ten years a blogger

So, although all milestones are arbitrary, something has been floating around my mind for the last few weeks: it’s been 10 years since I first started blogging. 

10 years a blogger

Like any milestone, this raises some thoughts, mainly around the whole notion of what blogging means to me today. 

Whilst writing this, my four-year-old popped up and asked what I’m doing. ‘Writing about my ten years as a blogger’. I then realized he has no idea of what ‘blogging’ is, even though he’s definitely a digital native (his first brand affinity was with Netflix, which, I know, says little for my parenting skills). This made me think it’s not necessarily given that blogging will form part of the lexicon of new generation digital naturals. Is the blog doomed to the same fate as the fax machine and CD as a quaint old technology that has had its time? 

I don’t think so. 

‘Blogging’ as a term may fall by the wayside but the act of self-publishing is alive and well. Back in 2004, I didn’t have access to Twitter, Tumblr, Medium, Facebook, Instagram or any other content-based social network. Blogging was just about it. WordPress and Blogger ruled this world. That’s hardly the case now. As each of the new pretenders arrived, a recurrent trope along the lines of ‘blogging is dead’ would rise up. 

But I’m with Mitch Joel (in this post from last year) in that even though the new generation may rarely use the term blogging, at its core the way the new generation shares content bears striking similarities. The power of publishing is now in the hands of all of us. Whether we call it blogging or not is largely a matter of semantics. 

But getting back to me, when I say I’ve been blogging for 10 years, what exactly does that mean? 

Have I been a diarist?

The chronological nature of blogs leaves them well-suited for diarists. I’m a lousy diarist. Sure, early in my career I made a living by publishing diary entries of my life in Goa. But (with very few exceptions) I’ve only ever kept diaries when I was compelled to do so. When I knew there was a platform for me and my ego. Even though one of my most popular posts covered one of the most profound moments in my life, I’m definitely no Samuel Pepys, if for no other reason than a lot of life passes me by without me documenting it.

Have I been an opinion leader? 

Has my blog been my very own digital soapbox. Not exactly: I’m someone that either feels like they don’t have enough intimate knowledge of a subject or knows it so well that can readily see both sides of an argument. That never makes for the best opinion pieces 😉 

Is my blog a news center?

I do share new and noteworthy tidbits that come my way, especially as I work in marketing and fair chunk of my career is tied up with launching stuff. Having said that, I’m rarely the first off the presses with new news so this is largely me sharing my (vaguely educated) spin on a story. 

Is my blog a hub/portal into a topic?

It has been in the past. Around 2007 I was really looking at the idea of blogs as curation points, gathering relevant information on a topic and dishing it up in a single portal. Then along came Twitter and pretty much stole that mantle. 

Have I built a solid community?

Some blogs are incredibly effective at uniting a tribe; linking a community. Fred Wilson does a sterling job for the startup world. Could I take up this space? Hmm, I tend to float around on topics of interest and where I want to put my attention. I’m afraid I can easily confuse the hell out of you if you elect to follow me constantly. As I have tended to move through different communities and interests, so has my blog.  (A lot of my early posts were on SEO, something I rarely talk about now).  

Does my blog link all my social sharing?

It should, given I’ve found myself recently professing the benefits of using blogs as a central repository for YouTube videos, Slideshares, SoundCloud podcasts etc. Also, Sandy Carter, who I work with closely, does a great job of this. I’ve been errant on this over the last 10 years but it’s definitely an area I want to focus on. 

Does my blog offer support and tips?

Blogging is great for support. The great James Taylor (not the music guy, but this one) talks about how he first started blogging as a way to send general information to a sales team, saving himself a bunch of emails in the process. I’ve definitely done this in the past – particularly when coming across a solution that wasn’t readily available via a Google search. Something it still makes sense to continue as we march into brave new worlds like video production.  

So, what is my blog and why should I keep it?

This gets back to my original thesis: a blog is a slippery chameleon of a platform that needn’t be confined in its objectives, or what’s shared on it. Sure, sometimes a blog will have a real set objective, but that’s a loose rule and one you have to decide on for yourself. 

I think as a business tool, the blog will continue to grow in importance. Just look at the growth right now in Content Marketing (as reported by Google Trends): 

Content Marketing Growth Dec 2014

Whilst content can take many forms (from landing pages to ebooks to Instagram videos, for example) a blog remains a great tool as companies become media houses.

Whether we continue to call a blog a blog remains to be seen, but I’m glad for the last 10 years I’ve had with Caged Ether and the doors it has opened up for me. I doubt I’d be doing what I do today if it wasn’t for this blog. It’s also been an outlet for me to express myself in a way I can’t do on any other social network, with a stronger sense of ownership to boot. I’m fascinated to see where this will lead me in the next 10 years 😉 

Postcript: Why Caged Ether?

I have been asked a lot over the years to what ‘Caged Ether’ refers. Just as my blog has morphed over time, so has the meaning of its name.

The origin of Caged Ether is tied with a word we rarely use now. Back in 2004 we used to talk of the internet as the Information Superhighway, and had the notion of information travelling through the ‘ether’ (whether down ethernet cables or over wifi connections). 

So the original definition referred to the blog as my little corner of the internet.

However, over time other connotations came into play. An idea that runs through both Buddhism and nuclear physics (and has been popularized by Deepak Chopra) is that all matter is mere illusion. The universe is all about the flow of energy. That’s all we are: bundles of flowing energy. Caged ether. 

Feedburner: pinging blog aggregators and more

You may be aware of the Google Feedburner service: a great tool to add significant power to your RSS feed. What you may not be aware of are some of the other features Feedburner offers. In this post I’ll explain some of the features we’ve been testing here on developerWorks and on other Lotus Connections blogs.

New clothes for an old feed

A standard RSS feed looks something like this:

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(Firefox display of RSS) 

Pass that same feed through Feedburner and this is what you’ll see:

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Nice, huh? Definitely more user friendly. It’s also more RSS Reader-friendly. IBM blogs serve up secure (https) RSS feeds which don’t play nicely with some RSS Readers, eg. Yahoo Pipes.

Detailed analytics

Now, I’ll be the first to urge you to concentrate on writing blog posts rather than fixating on how many readers you have. But still, there comes a time when it’s necessary to cast a backward glance at how many people are reading your beautifully crafted missives. Now, the display of the number of views per post is a great feature of these blogs, but that number (or any other web analytics you may have hooked up to your site) doesn’t take into account one group of users: those reading RSS feeds. This is where Feedburner comes into its own as it offers some great analytics:

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You can see how many people subscribe to your feed and some basic information on of those subscribers, and how many people are actually reading your posts through a reader. One word of caution: look carefully at your data as you could realize that some of those readers are not human, but bots sniffing out new content.

Ping service

Right, now we’re getting to the meat of the wonderful Feedburner service. If you don’t have a pinging service currently hooked up to your blog that’s notified every time you put out a new post, don’t despair: the Feedburner ping service could come to your aid. I recommend this if you are blogging on the Lotus Connections platform.

What exactly is the issue with not using a pinging service? One big factor is that Google may not figure out your posts are blog content. Whilst this won’t keep you out of their main index, it means your posts won’t show up in a blog search.

If you want to set up a ping service in Feedburner, go Optimize > PingShot. 

Other helpful features

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Feedburner offers a bunch of useful features under the hood but two that I find particularly useful are ‘Email Subscriptions’ (which helps you add ‘subscribe by email’ functionality to your blog) and ‘Socialize’ which allows you send your posts instantly in the direction of social media sites like Twitter.

Setting up Feedburner

This is pretty straightforward, as you’d probably expect. Just head over to Feedburner.com and either create a new account or sign in with an existing Google account. Once in, follow the wizard: all you should need is your blog URL or the URL of your RSS feed.

In Feedburner, the Google team really have created a consummate set of blogging/online publishing tools. So go ahead and give your content a boost with Feedburner.

Blog posting made easy: Windows Live Writer

I’d venture to say the hard part in blogging is coming up with good ideas and finding the time to turn them into attractive blog posts. However, that final stage of laying the post out in your blogging platform can add some friction to the process.

Most blogging platforms have some form of web-based WYSIWYG editor, however these do have some limitations:

  • Being web-based there is a danger you can lose your work if you lose your connection or your browser craps out
  • Functionality can be limited, eg. that table you’ve spent an hour constructing may show up as little more than garbled text
  • The editor may not deal well with formatting from a word processing document, such as MS Word
  • If you want to share your content in multiple locations, you will have to login to many different pages

Here’s where Windows Live Writer can come in. This small desktop client from Microsoft functions as a stripped down version of MS Word optimized for creating blog posts.

You can use it directly to file your thoughts and save them locally as drafts for later publishing. You can get funky with your layouts by adding pictures, tables, video,  and even maps! Being a Microsoft product, it plays nicely with Word and does a great job of stripping out all those annoying formatting tags you see when copying Word content into most editors. For the power blogger, it supports multiple accounts and makes it easy to take a post written for one location and instantly publish it elsewhere.

Sold? Want to get started?

Here’s a cheat sheet for those of you blogging on developerWorks. BTW, if you aren’t blogging here, but would like to, sign up now to see if your blog idea is accepted. If you are using another platform (such as WordPress or Blogger), most of this still applies, although you will need to alter the URL for your blog.

Setup

Download Windows Live Writer

Once installed, it will start a wizard to connect to your blog.

Use the following settings:

What blog service do you use? Select ‘’Other blog service’

Web address of your blog: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

Username/Password: (same combination you use to login to developerWorks)

At this stage it should automatically find the blog. If it doesn’t and asks you for a blogging service, use the following details:

Type of blog: Select ‘Atom’

Remote posting URL: Enter ‘https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/mydeveloperworks/blogs/?lang=en

You will then be asked whether the client can make a temporary post so it can detect the publishing formatting settings. Select ‘Yes’.

That’s it! You will be dropped into the editor and you are now ready to post.

Posting

You’ll notice that the editor is very close to MS Word and you can do most standard formatting using the top toolbars. You will also there find options to add images, video, tables, etc.

A word of warning about images: if you want to upload local files (rather than link to images already on the web), you may want to upload your post as a draft and add these from within your web editor. Sometimes Windows Live Writer can struggle to upload images directly to your blog.

Remember to specify categories (at the bottom of the post editor) to help you organize your content.

If everything looks good, go ahead and hit ‘Publish’! If you’re squemish by nature or have any doubts, you may want to go ‘Save Draft’ > ‘Post Draft to Blog’ just to make sure all looks fine before going live.

Happy blogging! 

(BTW, in case you are wondering, this post was created in Windows Live Writer!)