3.18.2009

Is Your Personal Blog Dead? SXSW Recap





SXSW. WOW. Being back home after 5 days of traveling, stuffing our brains with new technology, debates about the future of design and interactive components, listening to some of our geek gods speak, meeting new people, exploring a bit of Austin, TX, and nights filled with way too many networking parties from which to choose...this mama needs a long nap!

Hubby and I are so thankful for the folks who attended our SXSW Core Conversation session

YOUR PERSONAL BLOG IS DEAD

Topic Overview: on Sunday at 3:30 entitled Your Personal Blog Is Dead. We love debating this topic amongst our geeky selves, so it was quite a welcome change to be able to bring in a myriad of other opinions and experiences to the discussion. Here's a quick recap for those who missed it.Technorati recently reported that out of 133 million identified blogs, 94% have gone dormant within the past year (dormant is defined as having no new postings in last 120 days). Of the 6% (7.4 million) that posted in last 120 days, only 1.5 million of those were updated within last 7 days. Of the top 100 blogs listed on Technorati, only one could be categorized as a "personal blog;" the remaining 99 consisted of business or news blogs..

On the contrary, there are approximately 5 million "active" Twitter users and 175 million "active" Facebook users as of March 2009, up from 150 million Facebook users just five weeks ago.

Question posed: With the increasing number of new social media applications, increasing number of social media users, and with the declining number of active personal blogs, is the personal blog dying a slow death?

We did our own survey, and found that 50% of those surveyed (all of whom had personal blogs and were also active social media users) began posting less on their personal blogs after they started becoming active in the micro-blogging community (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc).

Some interesting observations from the audience:
  • Some noted that with Twitter and Facebook, they no longer felt they needed to blog since they already got the thought/emotion out of their system by tweeting or updating from their phones while out and about, and didn't feel compelled to blog further about specific instances once they got to a computer, whereas before they would have.
  • Others noted that they enjoy using social media micro-blogging tools for getting quick thoughts out to the public, and then using their blogs to expand upon the thoughts that they see relevant to their readers.
  • Many noted that they utilize social media tools to broadcast links to their blogs and have thus gained greater traffic to their blogs thanks to social media.
  • One audience member noted that Twitter was, in some ways, more effective than a feed reader for her, and another audience member chimed in and agreed that she probably misses out on reading some blog posts she normally would have read through her feed reader because the author didn’t tweet a link or included in a Facebook update.

When does a personal blog become a business blog? For me, prior to this session, I felt that a personal blog could no longer be categorized as such when the majority of the blog focused on topics related more to business than to personal matters, or when the blog became highly monetized in a way that you would be required to limit your personal voice due to advertiser constraints.

However, this part of the discussion brought out the fact that many of the blogs written by audience members were, in fact, hybrid blogs: part personal, part business. As the number of entrepreneurs and freelancers increase in America, and as our work/life boundaries blend more, the hybrid blog is on the rise. In our audience, there were photographers, food lovers, designers who all had blogs, but considered them to be personal blogs because even though they might get paid within those industries, they were still topics that were very personal to them. So is it conceivable that the Personal Blog has morphed into the Hybrid Blog? That in fact, the personal blog is not dead, but is simply evolving?

There were many other points of discussion broached during our session, but in the end, there is no right or wrong. We are at an interesting chapter in the Personal Blog’s history. I don’t think that Twitter, Facebook and the like will kill the Personal Blog, but social media tools have certainly forced personal blogs to adapt, evolve, and grow in order to maintain audiences and hold interest in this age of the 140 character attention span. I also believe that there are and will always be an audience for blogs that never reaches into the social media sphere—those who will never become comfortable with the fast pace, short attention span, and limited word count forced upon them my micro-blogging tools. Yet keep in mind that this particular session was focused on use of social media’s affect on Personal Blogs.

For those of you who have personal blogs and also use social media applications, what do you think? Is your personal blog alive and well and how has it changed with your own use of social media? Do you blog less or more than you did before you started using Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc.?

3.14.2009

Why? Why? The Wonder of Wondering

Wrote this post on 3.6.09 on my flight to New York for the Fishful Thinking symposium. Lost in the shuffle of a mad, mad week! :)

Alone with my thoughts. At freakin’ last. But you know what they say: be careful what you wish for. My inner dialogue for the first 20 minutes or so went a little something (ok, exactly) like this:

Ooh pretty mountains! What range is that? Rockies? Cascades? Boy I’m bad with geography. Look at that! What’s that river? I can’t believe that at one time this all was underwater. That’s crazy talk. I wonder how far up we are. Ooh look at THAT cloud formation! I wonder: do birds ever try to fly way up here? What happens: do they explode? (Start silently singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow). Why is it so flat down there now? How can people live where it’s so flat? Actually, how can people live away from an ocean? We need a beach house. The kids would love that. Where are we now? What on earth is THAT? Aliens? What time is it here? Why in the – hey, wait a minute. Who tooted? That most definitely was NOT me. What is it with planes and excessive tooting? Is it the air pressure? My hands are dry. Good thing I brought the Aquaphor. I love Aquaphor. I wonder…

And so on, and so on.

I wonder: when it is that we grow into adults who squelch this type of freeform thinking? Why is it adored in children (as in the phrase, “childlike wonder”) and yet frowned upon in adults? Why is it generally accepted that children will ask “Why? How? Why?” over and over again, but adults who constantly question are seen as nuisances?

I must admit: the above thought pattern? That’s my inner dialogue on a regular basis. Also: I wish this guy in front of me would STOP. FREAKIN. MOVING. HIS. SEAT. Back and forth, shifting all around, up and down. Good God, man, settle down!

Ok, where was I? Ah yes: wonder. I love it when my 4 year old asks questions. I especially love the Why questions. Because if you haven’t noticed, I personally enjoy asking them. A lot. I want to know why, don’t you? I love when my son asks me a Why question and I don’t know the answer. I love being challenged. Makes me hunt it down, figure it out. Also: makes me wonder Why too.

I hope my children never, ever lose their thirst for answers. When they are 15, 25, 45, 75… I hope they continue to ask questions and find wonder in the everyday norm.

UPDATE: On a related note, one of the take-aways I truly appreciated from my trip to New York for the Fishful Thinking Symposium was an activity which helps parents identify our own individual strengths as well as our children’s individual strengths (such as my son’s never-ending thirst for answers and curiosity about, well, everything in life), and how to work together as a family focusing on those strengths, understanding how they shape the different ways we approach life, and capitalizing on those strengths to bring out the positive in every day living. Learn more here.

3.10.2009

Oh Mamas! Little Fish, Big Pond

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity in White Plains, NY as I left my little kidlets for the longest time I've ever been away from them to attend the Positive Parenting symposium held by Pepperidge Farms in conjunction with their Fishful Thinking program. I must admit, that in addition to being apprehensive about my time away from my kids, I was also a ball of excited nervousness to meet the other nine Faculty Moms who have been chosen from around the country to help other moms actively engage in positive parenting skills. I mean, I'm not a famous blogger, by any means (I almost peed my pants the one time I got more than 40 comments on this blog - oh the joy!). I own a couple of businesses, run a review site mainly for fun with fellow book lovers, write a few other blogs, and just happen to be addicted to social media because it helps me run my businesses and, well, ok, I'm pretty chatty.

The other nine Faculty Moms? AMAZING. Each one, a stellar mama in her own right. They write blogs, run blog communities, camps, businesses, and are rockstar mamas to twins, one, two, or three kids. At dinner Saturday night, I learned we represent such a wide spectrum of values and beliefs, economic, educational and cultural backgrounds. Most importantly, I learned the other moms are all super sweet, fun, friendly, authentic and downright hilarious. I am astounded and still somewhat bewildered to be among their ranks. I feel like the little fish in a big pond, but hey, I'm stoked to be here.

Dr. Reivich, the brains behind the Fishful Thinking program and facilitator of this past weekend's symposium, has four children. And not only is she intelligent, a fantastic, engaging speaker, compassionate and kind, but damn does she looks incredibly well-rested for someone with four kids! I'm a mess with two! I like to attribute her healthy glow to the fact that it is so obvious she is doing something she loves, based on the happiness of people whom she loves (we saw slides of her kids during the presentation - adorable!), and s helping thousands of parents all over the country gain confidence in positive parenting skills.

Which brings me to the heart of the matter: the program. I have a lot to write about my take-aways from the symposium, so I'm not going to write it all in this post, but I will start with the fact that I sat there suddenly being asked questions that I hadn't thought to ask of myself as a parent. Sure, I try to be aware, conscious of my words, thoughts, actions, but I don't think I had ever felt challenged like this -- and I mean challenged in the best possible way. Every exercise hit home with me, to the point of where I was almost in tears thinking about my son, 3,000 miles away, and my memories with him during moments of challenging parenting. I started this blog when my son was just four months old; he is now 4.5 years old. I started writing because I was lost in this new mamahood, alone with so many questions and not enough answers, with so many fears and too many judgments, with unrealistic expectations and not enough support.

Since starting this blog, since starting my businesses, since making hundreds of new mama friends around the country over the years, I've felt supported, understood...and yet, the Fishful Thinking program, for me, takes that support and understanding a step further and offers proven effective tools, research-driven guidance to help me and my family truly understand one another and work together to become a stronger, more resilient family unit.

I did not anticipate the strong reaction I had to the symposium & my introduction to the Fishful Thinking program. I am still allowing it to sit with me, absorb it, wrap my head around it and sort it out. I'm excited to share what I've learned. But that will come in posts to follow. For now, I sleep (or attempt to. damn insomnia). Tons of work to do before heading to SXSW Interactive this weekend (longest trip ever away from my babies!!! BOO! But first trip away with the huz since baby was born - YAY!). More to come!

(PS-lest you think I got a little too serious & shit in this post for you, I'll have you know I had three huge glasses of red wine plus a Plum Collins last Sat night and ended up trying to find a show to go to in White Plains, NY by myself at 2 am, yo. PPS-there are no cool bands playing in White Plains, NY at 2am)

3.05.2009

Leavin' On a Jet Plane

Remember a few months back when I was just itching for a trip of my own? Just me and the ability to hear my own thoughts? My wish for a trip by myself has come true in a way I had never imagined. I love it when life is full of unexpected excitement! Tomorrow I'll be getting on a plane - by myself! No kids. No huz. Just me, my sleek new netbook, a paperback, and a couple of changes of clothes. Oh, and enough excitement to fly the plane on my pumped up adrenaline alone. You should all thank me for not writing this entire post in all capital letters, because really, people, I'm THAT stoked about what's to come this weekend.

This weekend I'll be joining nine other bloggers from around the country that have been asked to help the fine folks at Pepperidge Farm spread the word about their Fishful Thinking program. Developed by Dr. Karen Reivich, this program is designed to help parents and educators learn more about instilling optimism in our children's lives. Those who know me know this could not be more in sync with my own life philosophy, especially during these challenging times. I live for the positive, am an eternal idealistic optimist. Life is an amazing gift, and I truly believe that we have the power to harvest good thoughts that can change our lives. As a mom, I have witnessed the confidence and excitement in my children when we all work together in the positive realm, and I am looking forward to learning more activities that can help ensure my happy children grow into optimistic, positive, healthy adults.

When the PR firm Mr. Youth contacted me two weeks ago about the program, I was thrilled and intrigued. I had read all about the program and wanted to learn more. After an in-depth interview (during which I lobbed an obscene amount of questions and received thoughtful, quick answers), several follow-up emails and phone calls, I received a call last week that I was one of the 10 chosen to help represent the Fishful Thinking program. I am extremely honored and am still in shock. I have truly enjoyed getting to know the Mr. Youth executives, and can't wait to meet the other nine bloggers as well as the Pepperidge Farm folks, and Dr. Reivich.

So here I sit on the eve of my first trip without my family in over two years, with my almost 2-year-old jumping onto the pillow she keeps throwing on my head while laughing hysterically, with my 4.5 year old almost passed out on the couch next to me because he's so tired from a busy school week, and with my husband out on a dinner run since we feel like celebrating a little tonight (and also, not cooking :). I am a ball of nervous energy and massive excitement. I still need to pack. I need to sleep early tonight because we need to be up before sunrise.

Oh, and if you're flying from West to East tomorrow and a woman sits down next to you on the plane with the biggest you-know-what-eating grin you've ever seen, literally shaking from head to toe with excited energy, chatting you up, typing a bit too loudly on her netbook and offering you some almonds and maybe a scotch? That's me. Please smile back and say hello before you ask to change seats :)

I'll tweet, facebook and blog y'all again from NY!