Blogging and Search as Mainstream Media

ML Jan 28, 2006

That last entry just shows you the difficulty of separating work and personal on an endeavor like this. It’s going to be all-consuming for awhile. Balancing it with personal life isn’t (right now) about balancing it with rich social activity. It’s more about balancing it with keeping the apartment clean and paying the bills. I will be constantly working to make HitTail publicly launchable in under 2 months.

Connie told me I can bring in whatever help I need to get this done. But even just explaining what I have in mind adds too much overhead to the project—especially in light of what agile development methodology makes possible. Agile and Web 2.0 go hand in hand perfectly, with their bad-boy, contrarian approaches. It’s a thin line—the separation between Agility and hacking and Web 2.0 and un-professionalism. The difference being that the big down-sides are removed. Agility provides hacking that has long-term scalability and manageability. Web 2.0 provides parts that can be glued together so single people can TRULY write apps that even better than what used to take large teams. The two big enterprise frameworks promised to do this: .NET and JR2EE. And I tried both. Problem being, from my standpoint, the lack of agility. Consequently, my decision for now to stick with VBScript, and for later to go to Ruby on Rails.

Not every journal entry like this should become a post right away. In order to keep even the thought work of separating and designing posts out of the picture, I’m going to run with a stream of consciousness entry like this throughout the day, when I can. Little chisel-strike posts on programming concepts will probably go into the CMS/baby-step tutorials throughout the day. This entry will be to process thoughts and keep me on track.

This project is acquiring the momentum that it needs. I have had difficulty drowning out the thoughts related to my previous employer because the nature of the work there got so devastatingly interesting. What I did there was take a bunch of apathetic slackers who knew that the investor gravy train would never run out, and made them care about sales. Metaphorically, I both led the horse to water AND forced it to drink. The details could constitute a book, suffice to say it involved generating the opportunity through search hits, capturing the contact data, and attempting to force follow-up through business systems. The company busily occupied itself with documenting the fact that they were not interested in making sales, creating an untenable situation that culminated in, what I feel, was an attack on my career. This took the guise of a battle over resources. By the time the dust settled, I was left standing and new leadership took over who was sympathetic to my cause.

I have since moved on to greener pastures, but this dramatic experience flits into my mind on a regular basis even now, because there’s nothing even more interesting yet to replace it. I need a very big challenge that exercises my mind as opposed to my time-management and juggling skills (key aspects of the agency environment). HitTail needs to become that challenge. It needs many similar aspects of what I did at my last place. But whereas that place had a downloadable product that fueled the machine, the field of public relations is very undifferentiated—even if it is a leading NYC PR firm.

So, two things are changing everything. They’re both Web-based. The first is search engines. How many things since TV, phone, car and email have changed the way we relate to the world around us? How many times a day do you turn to a search engine for answers? Second, is blogging. Yes, the Web had tremendous impact. But blogging gave individuals equal voices to large, well funded corporations. Because something individuals had suddenly became made them rival large corporate budgets in terms of influence. That is the ability to publish quickly, without bureaucracy, without friction, and without editing. Coupled with search engines, individuals who would previously have fired off letters, fired off posts.

But this huge vocal advantage is not reserved for angry letter-writers. Mainstream media people are equally embracing this phenomenon. But more interesting than the companies who are forced into having a “corporate blogging strategy” are the individual journalists and thought-leaders who run their own rouge blogs independent of their employers. You will sometimes hear of these folks, who once spoke FOR the mainstream media AS the mainstream media. Yes, their opinions may be used on their TV broadcasts and editorial columns, but you will often hear the thoughts formulating, and in a more candid fashion directly on their sites.

HitTail is about leveraging these two big changes: the power of search, and the power of rapid, friction-free publishing. While HitTail doesn’t rely on blogging in particular, it does rely on developing the habits it takes to publish frequently, and publish well. In fact, I will be splitting it into two pieces: best practices for SEO, and best practices for publishing. I’m tempted to say best practice for “content”. But publishing, I think, gets to the heart of it. It’s about pushing out purposeful new material due to how it improves the quality of your site, and the site’s ability to pull in qualified search traffic.

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