I did something pretty exciting this week: I signed a contract to write the third edition of “Blogging For Dummies!”
“Blogging For Dummies, 2nd Edition” came out in January of 2008. Shane Birley was my co-author, and we had a lot of fun (there was also some stress) in working through the book. We really poured as much knowledge as we could into the 368 pages of the book, but you can never cover everything. Doing a third edition is going to give us a chance to respond to the feedback we have received from readers, and to get even more great information into the book. So much has happened in the blogosphere in the year and a half since the second edition was published!
The third edition will be published in January 2010, and I’ll let you know as soon as it is available to pre-order on Amazon.com. In the meantime, we’re about to embark on the writing part of the job, so if you have any suggestions for things that simply must be part of the third edition, or that we got wrong or missed the first time, leave a comment and let us know! This is a great chance to shape how the book comes together so that it is exactly the resource your need!
There was some other exciting “Blogging For Dummies” news in the last couple of weeks: I received copies of “Blogging For Dummies, 2nd Edition” that looked a little odd. Turns out the book has been translated into Italian! “Blog per negati” is what the book is titled in Italian. It’s pretty fun to see it, even though I don’t speak Italian myself. There is also a “Blogging fur Dummies” (German).
I’ll be critiquing Web sites again on The Lab with Leo this month, so you have a chance to submit your Web site for a quick review on television. It’s a chance to get a little free advice from me, and to get your Web site seen by all the viewers of Leo’s show—nothing wrong with that!
This video tells you how to get in on the action!
I've appeared on the G4 Tech TV show The Lab with Leo several times this summer and fall, and now I'm a fairly regular guest in the Web Workshop segment. It has really been fun to do the show, it's such a different energy than Hop Studios and it's fun to go and get the makeup on and talk with all the great tech guests that come to the show. I've got one more appearance this year, and I thought I'd let you all know that you, too, could be the subject of a quick review of your Web site on the show. It's a chance to get a little free advice from me, and to get your Web site seen by all the viewers of Leo's show -- nothing wrong with that!
This video tells you how to get in on the action, but you have to hurry! We need site submissions by Dec. 9!
This blog was recently ranked #10 in Canada on a list of top 30 Canadian marketing and advertising blogs.
Not bad, not bad. Perhaps if we started posting again we’d go up even higher!
We kid, Scott, we kid. Thanks for the kudos, and we’ll try to keep it fresh around here.
The first edition was written by Brad Hill, but the publisher—Wiley—wanted to revise the book this year and Brad wasn’t able to fit it into his schedule. So Wiley asked me if I would take the book on, and I’m working away at a revision. Revising a book like this is challenging. Wiley doesn’t really put any of the Dummies books out of print, so I wanted to write a book that would be different enough from the first edition that Brad and I weren’t in competition. Ideally, someone who buys the first book would also benefit from the second. But also, blogging sure has changed a lot! So there’s loads more stuff to try to fit in. I’ll post the proposed table of contents when its a little more firm. At this point, the book should be out in March 2007, and in the meantime you can definitely finds lots of great blogging information in the first edition: Blogging for Dummies.
The other exciting news is that my fellow blog designers and I have put together a panel proposal for SXSW Interactive for 2008: Blog Tool Death Match! We’re really excited to get out there and try to evangelize for our favorite programs, but we do need your help. There are more than 680 panels proposed for SXSW, but only about 120 spots. You can vote for us in the SXSW Panel Picker to help us get there, though. Go to http://panelpicker.sxsw.com regis,ter to vote, and once you’re in, do a search for “death match” and you’ll get our panel to come up. Give us a 5—we’d really appreciate it and we’ll do our darndest to give you a great great panel. Here’s what we proposed to the organizers:
Every blog project starts with the same question: Which blog platform is the right one to use? Answering this question correctly can make or break the final product. Get the nitty-gritty on each platform from experts who will defend their software choice against all challengers. Will it come to blows?
THREE TAKEAWAYS: Our three panelists will argue vehemently about the strongest features and flaws of each platform. Expect tosee sites demonstrated that highlight the best of each blog software choice, and bring your own questions and criticisms to get tips and workarounds.
Chris Abraham of “Because the Medium is the Message” messaged me this week to let me know about the Blogger’s Choice Awards and Postiecon, two thing I thought you should also know about.
The Blogger’s Choice Awards, Chris says, are “like a Webbys for blogs.” Nominate yourself or a blog like you, and voting will determine the winner. There are way more categories than I can duplicate here, so this is just a quick taste: Best Geek Blog, Best Podcast, Best Pop Culture Blog and Worst Blog of All Time. Why not head over and nominate yourself?
PostieCon is in Orlando, Florida, at the beginning of June. According to the copy on the site:
We are here to educate bloggers on how to build traffic and readership, and use your notoriety and unique brand to create value and monetize your voice. It’s not all about money and fame, our conference is designed to help you become a better blogger.
The schedule and speaker list already look good, and have a strong focus on blogging for money or business. A quick sampling of sessions include: Connecting with Advertisers, Turning Visits into Cash, and Vlogging Rockstar Style. Plus, there will be refreshments!
Blogging is still hot, and I’m still hot on blogging, but I’m pretty much tapped out when it comes to blogging about blogging. From this point on, I may update this blog periodically, but—officially—I’m retiring it.
Don’t get me wrong! My book, Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies, is still a great resource for blogging! I put a lot of time, energy and experience into that book, and I’m so pleased by how well it has remained current and useful. (I shouldn’t have done such a good job, since Wiley might have asked me to write a new edition if it hadn’t held up so well!) It’s not retiring! This is merely a reflection of my desire to make more blogs, and talk about them a little less.
Thanks for being such great readers. For now, hasta la vista, baby!
On Saturday I gave a presentation at Northern Voice (a Vancouver-based blogging conference) about blogging software and how it can and should be used for building Web sites are more than just a blog, or perhaps look nothing like a blog.
Not Just for Blogs
I think blogging is revolutionary. I think this because it is capable of building community and relationships, of informing, of entertaining… but when it comes right down to it, the thing that I think is so mind-blowing about blogging is the software. That, and the price of that software.
I started making Web sites in 1994. At that point, and for a long, long time, the vast majority of Web sites were built by making HTML files, potentially hundreds and hundreds of HTML files. My first job was with the L.A. Times Web site, and when we wanted to change the design in any way - from the wording of something in the navigation to the color of the links - you did it on a file by file basis. Every single page had to be opened, changed, saved, and then put onto the Web server again. Needless to say we didn’t do a lot of little changes.
As the Web evolved, so did the software solutions. If you were a big Web site company with a lot of money, you hired people to build you something better: a database-driven Web site. With a databased site you could build pages as they were needed. At the L.A. Times that meant that when someone clicked on a link for a news story, the database found that story, pulled it out, and plunked it into a template. The ground-breaking thing for the worker bees was that there weren’t individual files sitting around anymore: if you wanted to make a change to the site design you made it to the template and the next time someone looked at a story, boom, they got the new template. It made things easier for the developers and that in turn made things easier for the site’s visitors, because the developers could then spend time on other stuff, like content. It made other good stuff possible, too, like search, like archives, like content sorting by category.
That was what you did if you were a big company. If you were a little buy, or an individual, and you didn’t have the big bucks to spend, you still had masses of HTML files sitting around, and things like search were really out of your reach.
Then along comes blogging software.
What is blogging software? Well, at heart, it’s a database. You put the content in, it goes into a database. When it gets displayed, that content is dropped into a template. Sound familiar? This is why so many blog sites look the same from page to page - the home page looks just like a permalink page, except for the content of the actual blog posts. The templates are the same.
And most blogging software came with bells and whistles: search, archives, RSS feeds… it was all built in. You didn’t need any special expertise to set it up, and with a lot of blogging software you could get started in minutes. Best of all was the price. What the big companies spent hundreds of thousands on, you could get for free with Blogger. Even the blog software that did cost money was relatively inexpensive. For $200 or so, you had everything you needed.
As long as what you needed was a blog, you were set.
Well, my big message today is that if you invest some time and learning, you can make a blog software work for more than a blog. You can build any Web site using blog software, and if you do it right, no one will be the wiser.
Let’s look at some examples of what I mean. (A little caveat, I’m going to show you mostly business Web sites because those are the kinds of Web sites I’m hired to create, but the principles are the same whether you have a “brand” or not.)
Blog software can really revolutionize the maintenance issues for a web site, and make it easier to redesign (a reality we can’t ignore) as well, but that doesn’t mean every web site needs to run off of blog software. Small web sites with mostly unique page layout won’t be able to make easy use of blog software.
But any site that needs to be easy to update (perhaps by multiple people), has some standardization of presentation, and can work with a template approach.
Is it easy? Well, yes and no. Get the right blog software, and have the right know-how and it’s not a big deal. But if you aren’t willing to learn some code and invest some time… it’s hard. There are people you can hire to set up a site for you, that’s for sure.
Now, the components of blog software: usually you have:
I’m showing you pMachine’s Expression Engine, but many different kinds of blog software can be adapted for this kind of site. It’s important to choose blog software that gives you access to the templates! Wordpress.com isn’t going to do, and only the Typepad Pro level will work for you. If you can find software that can handle multiple blogs, so much the better. The reason I really love EE is that each “blog” can be customized, and because of all the extra components—mailing list, poll, photo gallery, forum module.
For this demo, I’ve chosen one of the templates that EE provides and I’m going to customize it. First, let’s deal with the Admin side and set up our publishing interface:
Next, let’s get rid of stuff in the template we don’t want.
And finally, let’s substitute a few things in the blog software code.
I got an extra Christmas present in December from the makers of my laptop bag: Mobile Edge. Lewis Lustman, director of marketing for Mobile Edge, left a comment on an earlier post of mine and then followed up with an email to me.
I picked the Mobile Edge Chocolate Suede Tote because I wanted a laptop bag that looked like it belonged to a woman, and that didn’t involve black canvas or vinyl. It was a tough search, especially since my laptop—at 17”—was too large for many of the more fashionable bags. When I found a Mobile Edge bag at Fry’s, though, I discovered that I could fit my laptop into the bag, as long as I didn’t put it into the actual slot created for it. Since the bag was quite padded anyway, I’ve been merrily using it and putting file folders in the laptop slot since.
Recently, though, Lewis told me, Mobile Edge had started making an insert just for laptops like mine (huge) and he wanted to send me one. Naturally, I accepted.
Now, one of the things I really liked about the Mobile Edge tote I chose was that the interior piece that holds the laptop is just an insert; it can actually be removed completely from the bag (and get this, when you remove it, you don’t loose any interior pockets or features!). This means you could buy a couple of inserts and say, use the same bag for more than one laptop.
When my new insert arrived, I pulled out the old 15” insert, popped in the 17” and the laptop fits perfectly. I have had a chance to use the bag since putting in the new insert, and things do fit a bit better when you can put the laptop into the right place, so it actually feels like I have more space, not less.
I’m still a huge fan of this bag, which is well-made and durable, and I can now recommend it unreservedly for carriers of 17” laptops as well.
My one remaining complaint is that bag + laptop + peripherals + book + ... well, it’s all a little heavy. That’s more of a physics problem, though. I’ll let you know if Mobile Edge cracks the code on breaking that whole two bodies of mass attracting each other thing.
Looking for a fun widget to add to your site? I like the new site called “Twitter.”
On Twitter, you quickly share just a little one liner about what you’re currently up to. Then it notifies your close friends about what you’re up to. It’s a nice way to feel connected to someone without feeling like you’re intruding.
Susie has added a Twitter badge to this blog, but your twitter status also gets sent via AIM or GTalk, or can be see on twitter itself.
It’s quick to sign up and fun. Let me know if you join!
I was checking information about a domain today, and noticed that GoDaddy seems to have changed their response to send people to their Web site. No longer can I get the information I need through a simple unix command, in text format with no advertising:
[Travis-Smith-Computer:~] nep% whois spacesindoorsandout.com
Whois Server Version 2.0
Domain Name: SPACESINDOORSANDOUT.COM
Registrar: GO DADDY SOFTWARE, INC.
Whois Server: whois.godaddy.com
Referral URL: http://registrar.godaddy.com
Name Server: DNS50-2.NEXCESS.NET
Name Server: DNS50-1.NEXCESS.NET
EPP Status: clientDeleteProhibited
EPP Status: clientRenewProhibited
EPP Status: clientTransferProhibited
EPP Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 30-Nov-2006
Creation Date: 28-Jan-2004
Expiration Date: 28-Jan-2007
>>> Last update of whois database: Mon, 04 Dec 2006 13:43:00 EST <<
Spaces Indoors & Out
Domain Name: SPACESINDOORSANDOUT.COM
Domain servers in listed order:
For complete domain details go to:
It’s only when I go to their Web site that I can get the contact information for Registrant, Administrative, Billing and Technical Contact.
While I’m sure they did this to “cut down on spam” or something like that, I find it an unacceptable tradeoff that makes it harder for me to administer domains. And I think it might be a violation of their duties as a domain registrar.
I’m in San Francisco for the first ever Dummies Authors Conference. There are about 50 Dummies authors here, and the day is packed with discussions about marketing books, the uses of agents, and general Dummies best practices. It’s going to be an interesting day! You can check out the agenda here.
There’s been a bunch of press already, but the most exciting news of the day is that the conference is up for being featured on the Evening News with Katie Couric. In fact, you can actually vote to send Steve Hartman to the conference tomorrow by going to http://www.cbsnews.com and clicking on Assignment America. We’re up against some guy who can talk really fast and a California prison program to send female juvenile delinquents to finish school (“Can etiquette, fashion and dance really set a girl straight?”). Wouldn’t you rather get the inside scoop on the For Dummies books? Of course you would. Go vote.
And, if I haven’t convinced you already, check out the other press coverage today:
The “dummies” label could be the weirdest aspect of the whole franchise, as the authors are not really supposed to assume their readers are dumb, just uninformed. The publisher, in an official statement on the matter, calls it a “term of endearment.”
The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that, when it comes right down to it, “Web 2.0” ain’t all that. Succinctly put, the very ways in which Web 2.0 is typically defined—user collaboration and contribution, photo sharing, etc.—aren’t really anything new to the Web, which has always partly been about user-generated content. (Read more about the report.)
From MediaPost: “It doesn’t really matter that this bright line has been so elusive, or that some savvy marketers simply use the label to distance themselves from the failures of Web 1.0 companies,” states the report.
What does Web 2.0 mean to you?
This is one of the strangest things I've run across on the Web in a while.
Got an email today about an interesting sounding event:
How To Use Blogging & Podcasting To Engage Your Employees, Reach Your Customers & Build Your Brand
October 18-20, 2006 – San Francisco, CA
Hear practical lessons learned and case studies from IBM, Southwest Airlines, U.S. Army, Cisco Systems, Mayo Clinic and others.
Link to the detailed agenda: http://www.aliconferences.com/conferences/blogging_podcasting/1006.html