Scott, you raise some interesting points, too. First, for those who don't know the term, "flog" is short for fake blog and refers to blogs that appear to be real, but that are actually ghostwritten marketing tools. Here's a link to the Wikipedia article. And you'll find a good discussion about disclosure policies (often the sticking point for flogs) here. To me, there are two central questions: do you you blog about your company and products? And if you do, how do you keep from coming across as just another corporate flack-meister?
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My last blog post, here, was about our new blog features. I worked with the new blogs as they were being developed and was very excited (I still am) about the improvements we've made. So far, so good. To provide more details about the new features I extracted some descriptions I wrote for the product's release notes and revised them a bit for the blog article. That's when the questions started swirling around the office. Was it authentic? Had I gone over to the dark side (otherwise known as marketing)? Opinions were divided.
So I'll ask you folks what you think. Was it useful? Did you feel like you were being sold to? Since I plan to spend a lot of time writing about our products in the future (after all, that's what I do for a living), I'd like you to help me find the right balance between my natural enthusiasm and the proper demeanor for a corporate blogger. It's a relevant question that I suspect many of you will be facing in your own communities. How do you spread the word about your products and still keep it real?
Post your comments and share your thoughts!
Message Edited by SusanM on 09-18-2008 05:42 PM
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This blog is a bit of a departure for me. I normally write admin and user guides. The language tends to the dry and impersonal -- simple declarative sentences, active voice, well-structured tasks, that sort of thing. I might toss in the occasional adverb, but adjectives? No way! Pretty much exactly the opposite of what you except to find in a blog.
I've been playing with the new Lithium blogs for several months now, and boy do I love it. One of features I like best is the ability to save a draft as I'm working. I've listened to blogger friends complain bitterly about losing hours of work to the quirks of their blogging software. Polished articles down the drain just as they were pressing Send. I'm barely two paragraphs into this article and I've already saved my draft twice. Make that four times.
So what are some of the new features you can look forward to in blogs? Here's a quick list (yes, they're culled from the release notes, but it's not plagiarism because I wrote the release notes):
Comment moderation. Communities can elect to have moderators review and approve comments before they are posted to blog pages. Additional options allow comments from trusted community members to be posted immediately, bypassing the approval process. We expect that communities will use this as a perk for their VIPs, granting the permission via a role.
Anonymous comments. Although you’d never permit it in a forum, allowing comments from anonymous guests is the norm in blogging. Optional safeguards include comment moderation and a word challenge puzzle (called a CAPTCHA) that visitors must solve before they submit comments. In addition, guests must provide a name (displayed) and email address (not displayed) before they can submit a comment. The CAPTCHA is designed to foil those omnipresent comment-bots that scatter link-vertizing all over unprotected blogs.
Sidebar widgets. Customizable sidebar widgets display information about the blog as well as data from the rest of the community. Using the new widgets list, you can choose the widgets to display and drag and drop them in the right-hand sidebar on each blog page. Each blog can have its own custom widget configuration. You choose and arrange the widgets by dragging them into position from a list of available widgets.
Social bookmarking capabilities. Users can bookmark blog articles using any of the most popular social bookmarking sites, including Delicious, Digg, Facebook, Twitter, Technorati, MySpace, Reddit, Newsvine, StumbleUpon, Slashdot, and many others. All told, Lithium blogs provide links to almost three dozen social bookmarking sites.
WYSIWYG article and comment editors. Blogs now utilize the same robust editor as messages and replies, giving bloggers both an easy to use and powerful article authoring environment. Key editor features include WYSIWYG formatting, a spelling checker, easy embedding of images and links, and previewing capabilities. Authors can switch between WYSIWYG and HTML editing. Having used a non-WYSIWYG editor, I can attest to the improvements on this score.
Labels for articles. Similar to tags, labels allow blog authors to categorize their articles with searchable keywords. Users can not only click on labels to see related articles, but they can also search across the community for common terms used in both tags and labels. We debated for quite a while about calling them categories rather than labels. Both terms are used in the blogosphere, and in the end we opted for labels to avoid any confusion with the categories we use as part of the community architecture.
New Community Metrics. New blog-specific metrics allow you to gauge the impact that blogs are having on your community. Among other things, you can tell how many comments come from anonymous users vs. community members as well as how many of each group are being approved.
And perhaps best of all, I can easily edit this article when I find the inevitable typo. Sweet!
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Also in the same issue of Atlantic monthly, is a column from Marc Ambinder, "The Internet Presidency" -- http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200806/ambinder-obama -- that discusses various communications revolutions, newspaper transcripts of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and Roosevelt's fireside chats, for example, and the presidents who benefited from them. Obama, says Ambinder, has clearly mastered web-based organization and fund-raising. Is online participatory government far behind?
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