Blogs: interesting little creatures, they are

For the past week or so, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on blogs for ux.com.sg

It started simple: find a blogging tool that meets ux’s blogging needs.

But in that week of research, evaluation and discovery, a lot of interesting questions about blogs have surfaced.

What are blogs, really? How did they come about? Is it really all hype about this “new media” that has emerged, or is there really something of value to learn and use from it?

I’ve had time to reflect on this, and here’s what I think:

Blogs, by any definition, are no more than conversations. Yes, conversations. People are discovering for the first time how easy it is in this day and age to start a conversation on just about anything they are passionate about.

Why the sudden surge in popularity about blogs then?

Its because of how simple it has become to start a blog, to start a conversation online. Almost anyone with something to say can start a blog today in 3 minutes. All you need is an email address, 1 minute on google to look for a blogging tool that suits you, sign up, confirm and Boom! there you go. The traiditional barriers of technology no longer apply because starting a blog has become as easy as filling out a form (pen not required).

Are blogs for everybody? No. blogs are for people who have something to say. Blogs are for people who want to share what they are passionate about, and here from people who share those passions. Imagine putting yourself in front of 50,000 people talking about something you know and feel next to nothing for. Blogs are a passive medium for even the shyest of people to have their say, maybe even a veil of secrecy if it makes them feel more comfortable. Blogs take away all the social conundrums and personal limitations people have when communicating face to face and all that’s left is a turn-based conversation well within the control of the speaker/author.
Then there’s the issue of authenticity and credibility of information. Do people really care _WHO_ you are when it is what you say that counts? How can people take your information as credible if you don’t sumstantiate? In fact, how do people deem a piece of information credible or not? For that matter, do people even CARE if information is credible? If that’s so, then for what types of information do people require credibility and for what don’t they require?

If we look at blogs as conversations, and we want to design a better blog, then it seems there’s no better starting point than to look at how people converse. It is from findings from this point that we will find what new tools and features and even design of a blog would facilitate that conversation for people.

And another beauty about blogs and the online medium is how easily others can participate in that conversation as well. Digg.com Technorati.com Del.icio.us These are aggregation websites that bring power to the people to say what _THEY_ think is important and should make headline news.

I want to understand people’s motivations for blogging: how did it begin? what did it lead to? where do you see it is going?

For businesses, are they ready for a corporate blog? do they want to shut down their PR force fields and expose themselves to the “elements”? are they ready to make the change?

How do blogs measure their success? Is success even important when it comes to blogs or conversations? What are people’s goals when they blog, what do they want? what are their motivations? If today their blogs disappear, what would they do instead?

If people blog so that what they say can be heard, then what else can be done to get them heard louder by more people?

How are blogs, and this increase of people making conversations, affecting the world outside of the Internet? How are blogs affecting the Internet and people for that matter?

Do people take on different personas when they blog? is one persona more “likable” then the other? how do people learn which persona works better than others? This is kinda important because the persona you take has an effect on your “blogging voice” or how you “sound” when you write your blogs.

There’s a lot to think about blogs, and in the coming weeks, as the research gets deeper, more interesting insights and questions will arise. For the moment, I leave you with my notes so far as we refine and further refine the goals of our eventual Blog Research Study.

—–Research Notes begin—–
Introduction

Background

  • Evolution of blogs
  • Types of blogs
  • where do blogs fit in Web 2.0?
  • Impact of blogs
    • Socio-ethical
    • Business
  • Critical Success Factors of Blogs
    • 10 Killer post ideas: writing for your blog
      1. How to
      2. Lists
      3. Campaign
      4. Interview
        Niche celebrities, get them on IM or the phone and interview them. The key to a good interview is asking questions either the audience wants to know answers to or that elicit answers that are very interesting.
        1. Do your research
        2. Prepare questions beforehand not off top of your head
        3. Send your questions to the interviewee in advance
        4. Interview is about the interviewee, not about you
        5. Ask open-ended questions, yes/no answers kill interviews
        6. Interact! Don’t just fire off questions, make the conversation flow
        7. Thank the interviewee for their time and ask if there is anything they would like to say or add
      5. Review
      6. Case study (If you can write from real world experience “How I made my first million” rather than “How to make a million”.)
      7. Research results
      8. What’s new, trends (If you are really immersed in your niche then it should be possible to spot trends and report on them.)
      9. Attack! (Going on the offensive is risky but definitely drives traffic. “Can you really lose weight by eating only cheese?”)
      10. Ask the audience
  • Publicizing your blogs and SEO
    • Why
    • Techniques
  • Finding your blogger
    • Character Traits of a blogger
    • Blogging voices
  • Corporate change

Research Questions

  • Do asian bloggers have different blogging needs?
  • Do asians blog differently?
  • Defining blogs: what is a blog? What types of blogs are there? What do asians think are blogs? What types of blogs are _NOT YET_ explored in asia?
  • Credibility of information: how to asians evaluate if information is credible or not?
  • lonelygirl51: do people even care about authenticity when they’re Online?
  • Types of blog posts
  • Academic study: interactions between author and reader (blog is not a singular entity; it is part of a greater social network of people with common interests and concerns)
  • Critical success factors for blogs ( e.g. are there post traits that make one blog more successful than others?)
  • using blogs in organizational contexts (e.g. courseware, information sharing tool, research project). Using blogs for specific tasks and in different contexts. Let’s expand the role of blogs, what they can do, featuresets that are required, and invent a new tool.

Asian perspective of:

  • awareness
  • awareness local and foreign bloggers (mrbrown, popaghandi, xiaxue, )
  • choice blogging tools

Previous research

Milestones

Tasks

  • Interview Guide
    • How did it all begin?
    • Where is your blog now? State and impact?
    • Where do you see your blog going? Where do you want to take it?
    • What do you think your blog is? Are YOU your blog? If your blog was a person named John or May, how would you describe him/her?
    • If your blog did not exist tomorrow, what would you do? What would you miss most?

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