How I Started Blogging

Blogger Con

Dave Winer posted a call for co-remembrances of the BloggerCon conferences he held in 2003/2004 which got me thinking about how I started this blog and kicked off a series of events that brought me to California to work at a blogging company and catch a wave that I’ve been on ever since.

I attended BloggerCon II in Boston in 2004 on a hunch. I was working at Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, for the Electronic Publishing division (only a newspaper company would have such a division) and was working with enterprise customers integrating news into corporate intranets. Most companies at that time were using large portal software packages such as Plumtree or Microsoft Sharepoint to drive their portals so blogs for corporations were very much under the radar. At the time, I was a regular reader of John Battelle’s Searchblog and Joi Ito and was playing around with Blogger so I could see the promise. My gut told me that the blogger community was something worth investigating.

When I got to Cambridge, where BloggerCon was held, I immediately knew that I was in the right place. The unconference format was very natural to me and the sharing openness of the attendees was a welcome change from the competitive world of enterprise software.  Each session included an IRC chat and seeing the IRC scrolling on the screen behind the speakers was a philosophical shift that echoed the shift of the conversation from the publisher to the community that was taking root with blogging. I think their was some kind of streaming audio for remote viewers as well. I recall someone typed something into the IRC that made the entire room erupt in laughter,  that person then typed “Cool, I just made the room laugh.” It was a powerful learning moment for me, to listen and include your audience. It was a pre-cursor to what we see today when the twitter/hashtag feed serves as a back-channel commentary to the podium. The community could drive the agenda. This was in 2004, before the Kryptonite/Bic Pen video and all the other Social Media fails that were to follow.

I had been pretty much all alone in corporate-ville trying to explain the power of this new self-publishing platform but most of my talk was falling on deaf or pretentious ears. Meeting others at BloggerCon helped me put more eloquent words to what I was trying to say and emboldened me to spin up a few initiatives of my own.

I was a always struggling with the best way to get the word out to our more developer-minded customers. All communications were filtered through the Marketing and PR departments where things I wrote were watered down and stupefied to the point where they didn’t make sense. We sometimes had outages and by the time my post-mortem communications were approved and made it to the customer, it was too late and only served to remind them of something they had already forgotten about.

I launched a product blog for my product and gave the address to a small group of customers that I knew would appreciate it. On that blog I would give them a head’s up on new features and asked customers questions about future product direction. They left thoughtful comments and the knowledge shared in the commentary helped everyone who read them. It was a lightweight community, an alternative to more formal “focus groups” which cost a lot to set up and required people to travel in order to participate.

I was nervous because I was going around the Marketing Department so after a couple of weeks I mentioned to the VP of Marketing what I was up to and his response was, “Don’t tell me anything more. I don’t want to know what you’re doing but keep doing it.” From that day on the die was cast and I was off and running. Within a year, convinced of the power of this form of communication, thanks to an introduction from my sister, I had a long, animated conversation with Anil Dash who had already moved to California to work at Six Apart, an early blog software pioneer. Within a few months I joined my sister, Anil, Andrew Anker and others as the company geared up to launch Six Apart’s hosted blogging platform, TypePad.

The rest is history. Since BloggerCon, my career has always leveraged lessons that were put into motion that weekend in Cambridge. Every job I have held since has involved an appreciation of the social media community that started at BloggerCon. Thank you Dave for giving a home to the early pioneers and setting me on a path that I am still blazing down today. It’s been a glorious ride.

Yahoo Hosts Movable Type for its Small Business Customers

So I’m really happy to see the announcement. I knew this was in the works but, because I used to work at Six Apart, I stayed away from getting too involved in the details of this partnership. I’d write more but I’m in the middle of the Syndicate conference. I’d just like to say it’s great to see blogs integrated into the Yahoo Small Business offering in a click-to-install way so that Small Business customers can take advantage of Six Apart’s premier product.

In the grand tradition of using my employer’s products, I’m moving this blog over to a new site that I set up on the Small Business service. It took me all of 10 minutes to set up my blog and import my posts into my Movable Type installation. Bear with me while I work through templates and plug-in tuning over the next few weeks.

The Baseball Collector

Six Apart has a partnership with Major League Baseball to enable their fans to keep blogs. It’s been an amazing glimpse into America’s #1 obsession to see how many different perspectives people have on the sport. Every now and then I check back to see what’s new and today see that they’re featuring a blog by a guy that’s collected over 2,600 baseballs. He gives tips on the fine art of getting yourself a game ball.

I can usually tell where a ball is heading by the way it sounds coming off the bat. During batting practice, I sometimes have to ignore the batter for a pitch or two to label a ball that I just caught. While I’m looking down, I listen for the crack of the bat, and I know whether or not I need to look up. There’s a distinct difference in the sound between a ball that’s pulled versus one that’s hit to the opposite field.

The Baseball Collector

Serendipitous Audio Streaming Services

Now joining is a new service, Pandora, which supplements revenue from affiliations with Amazon and Apple with a very reasonable subscription fee ($36/year, $12/quarter). The interface works better for me but that’s mostly because they’ve simplified the number options they make available. Unlike, you cannot tag your music collection nor does it monitor what music you play to adjust your profile which is what I find so fascinating about

Last weekend I had friends over for dinner and had’s “vocal jazz” tag streaming all night long and we were constantly surprised with the things passed our way – Judy Garland, rare Louis Armstrong, the occasional spoken word rap, all like rare cheeses on a silver platter. is worth it if you invest the time to manage your profile and feed the ecosystem – Pandora is more for the person that wants to boot up, login, and start listening right away.

One point in Pandora’s favor – they have a Movable Type blog so they can post on their plans for the future.

Movable Type 3.2

The pop of a champagne cork at Noon today signaled that Movable Type 3.2 has been pushed out for general release. Jay, Brad, Ezra, Anil, Walt, and too many countless others to list all pulled together and have launched a product for which they should be really, really proud.

I’m always amazed at the depth of talent here and how Six Apart can consistently launch products which are not only powerful publishing platforms but also lightweight (the .zip file of the full install is a dainty 1.7MB) and  elegant in design.

Administrative Dashboard,
Plug-in based spam filters,
A template picker,
all this and much, much, more

We’re running a back-to-school special and knocking $30 off the price of our personal editions until the end of September or you can go to our hosting partners and get an account with Movable Type pre-installed. One of our ProNet consultants already jumped on the bandwagon and is offering to upgrade your MT install starting at $40.

Amidst all this, there’s still room for humor with nice little touches such as a shit-colored Junk folder and a little retro-badge in hommage to the Netscape of yore.

Shameless Plug

The recent upgrade of TypePad has brought a whole host of new features that are worth highlighting. If you’ve been on the fence about getting into blogging, now is the time and TypePad’s the product!

– Doubled Bandwidth and Storage
– Snazzy new themes
– Moderated comments
– TypeKey integration

Click on the button on the left to learn more.

If you already have TypePad, be sure to set aside some time to explore these new features in detail. One easy way of doing this without messing with your existing blog is to create a test blog.

If you don’t have a TypePad account and want to see what all the fuss is about, sign up for a 30-day free trial and check it out.

Treasure Hunt #3

22730932_670ee2634e_o.jpgTypePad 10% Lifetime Discount card to the first one there. In a back alley in San Francisco. Go to to find address of a yummy restaurant near Union Square, get a seat outside in the back alley and while you are enjoying your scallops and Chardonnay, look for this card on the wall opposite the restaurant.

Categorized as Uncategorized Tagged ,

If only I was in better shape. . .

In a past life I cycled my way across Europe including climbs over the Pyrenees and the Dolomites. I was in the best shape I’ve ever been and towards the end I rode along with an Austrian team out for a ride and stayed right along with them, panniers and handlebar bags and all. I’ve been an avid cycling fan so I of course took a detour near the Loire Valley and saw the Tour roll through and even dinned near the Italian Polta team one evening and overheard them planning their tactics for the next day.

Subaru (with the help of R/GA) has launched their Tour de France blog (yep, it’s on Movable Type!) and has a sweepstakes drawing for two lucky individuals to blog about this year’s Tour which will be Lance Armstrong’s last. Qualifications require you not only to know something about cycle racing but also to be in top shape because you’ll be riding the course. From the Rules & Regulations page:

NOTE: Trips require bicycle riding along with Tour de France participants, which will require winner to be in exceptional physical condition. The Tour de France rides are challenging, mountainous, and are known for their long, strenuous climbs.

I better work on those situps. . .

Thanks to Adrants for the pointer.