July 8th, 2003
"Blogging - The New Mouthpiece of the Net"

Minutes of the (Tuesday) July 8th, 2003 Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group (RMIUG): "Blogging - The New Mouthpiece of the Net"

The meeting started at about 7:00 pm with roughly 60 people in attendance. Dan thanked the RMIUG sponsors for their support:

MicroStaff (http://www.microstaff.com) generously provides food and beverages at the meetings. The company provides creative and technical talent for Web, interactive media, marketing communications, and software development projects.

ONEWARE (http://www.ONEWARE.com) -- a Colorado-based software company that provides semi-custom web-based applications, is the sponsor of the RMIUG meeting minutes.

Mike Komarnitsky of Komar Consulting Group (http://www.komar.biz) for RMIUG website hosting.

NCAR - for use of their wonderful facility.

Dan also gave the names of RMIUG's four committee members:

Dan Murray (dan@rmiug.org)
Bryan Buus (bryan@rmiug.org)
Jeff Finkelstein (jeff@rmiug.org)
Tom Bresnahan (tbrez@rmiug.org)

Dan solicited announcements from the floor. UCAR has new job openings, which can be found at its website http://www.ucar.edu.

Dan then introduced the first speaker for tonight: Christopher Locke (clocke@panix.com), a noted industry speaker and author, publisher of the EGR Weblog, and president of Entropy Web Consulting in Boulder. He was included in The Financial Times' 2001 list of top 50 business thinkers worldwide and has written extensively for publications such as Forbes, Release 1.0, Information Week, Publish, The Industry Standard, and Harvard Business Review. Chris is author of "Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices" and co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto," a business bestseller. Dan noted that after three of the authors of Cluetrain spoke at RMIUG, it became a bestseller (obviously an important part of the book's marketing campaign).

Chris called his presentation, "Why I Blog and They Don't." Blogs are frequently updated online diaries or journals. While preparing for his talk, he decided to write down his thoughts on the matter in his blog. He compared the pathological narcissist (prevalent in Boulder) with bloggers, and warned us that his comments would likely offend everyone in the audience at some point. Sure enough, some people did walk out. (But some of those returned once the other speaker of the event, Derek Scruggs, began his presentation. Perhaps they just needed a long bathroom break, which just happened to coincide with Chris's presentation.)

Chris read his blog entry, which can be found here, http://www.rageboy.com/why-i-blog.html

After he was done, he was asked by an audience member if bloggers, who judge their readership by subscribers and search engine rankings, are any different than movie and television producers, who keep track of ratings and box office sales. Chris said one difference is that blogging is often motivated by pure vanity while there is some monetary reward with Hollywood's output.

He said the cultural benefit of blogging is that we are sharing our humanity. People describe in great detail what their lives are like, thus exposing us to the diversity and plurality of the species.

Next up was Derek Scruggs (derek@escalan.com), founder of Escalan, LLC, a full-service online agency. He has also been the permission advocate for MessageMedia (now part of DoubleClick), one of the original email marketing service providers. Before that he was founder and CEO of Distributed Bits, a Chicago-based provider of email customer service software acquired by MessageMedia in 1998.

Derek talked about RSS (Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, depending on who you ask). He described it as a pull technology (using an XML format) that feels like a push technology. It can be used to bring designated web-based information to a user's computer. According to the website http://www.faganfinder.com/search/rss.shtml, "RSS files (which are also called RSS feeds) simply contain a list of items. Usually, each item contains a title, summary, and a link to a URL (e.g. a web page)." While RSS is currently popular as a way to enable subscribers to receive updates from their favorite blogs and newsites, it can be used for a number of different purposes where event-driven notification is desired. It can be a tool for enterprise information, knowledge management, and content management systems. Because it is XML, it is machine readable.

Derek described how RSS is being used in blog aggregators. Blogger, a blog application, has approximately one million registered users, but only about 20,000 of them are active. Still, there are enough of them to benefit from some organization. A RSS-based blog aggregator allows you to subscribe to your favorite blogs and receive updates and links to new entries. It sends the results in a format that looks like email. However, RSS is a web service that uses HTTP as its communication protocol. This means it doesn't require an email, thus avoiding the problem of spam.

There are three versions of RSS in use, 0.9x, 1.0. and 2.0, with multiple standards. This is not a problem other than the fact that there is no standard way to subscribe to a blog. There are least a dozen aggregators are available. Each is different. Five or six are commercial endeavors and the rest are made available by people experimenting with the technology. Derek said it feels a lot like the browser wars in 1995. "Pick the one that you like, then wait a couple of years and get the one from Microsoft," he joked.

AOL will soon release a blogging tool. Microsoft is dipping its toes in the water. Yahoo has many internal RSS feeds, but has not released them to the public yet. The new Google has a "Blog This" button built in. (Google recently bought Blogger.)

During the Q&A period, Chris talked about the early days of the Net when he was working at IBM and publishing diatribes about it. He wasn't worried about getting in trouble because he assumed "IBM was too stupid to find me." Now companies are much more vigilant. "The Net is most yeasty when there is no commercial potential. The tools get better, but there are more chilling effects." He feels, though, that companies should encourage their employees to blog. "If 1000 people at your company are blogging, 1000 people are spreading the company's name. It's amazing how many people want to write. We've never before had the opportunity for individuals to express their lives as they seen them."

At the end of the presentation, Dan asked a trivia question and gave the winner a gift certificate to Softpro Books (http://www.softpro.com/).


Tentative upcoming RMIUG meetings:
TBD - "Offshore Technology Outsourcing and How It Affects US Tech Workers"
---> Please send speaker ideas to: dan@rmiug.orgTBD - "Music on the Net - Marketing and Technology"
TBD - "Web Technology - What the Present and Future Holds"
TBD - "Starting an Internet/Software Company Today"
TBD - "Domain Update - Legal Issues & Technical Changes"
TBD - "Nonprofits on the Net - A Web of Activism"
TBD - "E-Learning: Did the Hype Ever Pan Out?"
TBD - "Instant Messaging vs. Email vs. Web"

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