Why Blog? (and tools we need for it) feat. my 2011 WordCamp talk Tools for Tummeling in the age of Google +
I just came across this post which I wrote about a year ago when I was near the culmination of finally getting a central website up at heathergold.com, something that I stressed about and thought about for *years.* I’m posting it in the event you may find it helpful. And because I recently gave a talk at WordCamp (the annual WordPress conference from Automattic) about my view about the need for changing blogging tools. It’s interesting to see how much further my feelings about blogging platform needs have gone only a year after I was about to end my insanely long struggle to have a “proper” central site / blog under my name.
A couple of key notes from the performance/talk Tools for Tummeling in the age of Google +
(but it’s pretty funny and includes some awesome 9 and 6 year old sisters dropping some serious web knowledge, so it’s worth a watch)
• blogs are still brochure-like and one-to-many-ish which seem static and unsatisfying in the era of social activity streams. People are in “social media’ to be with each other. How do we create a “with” space and feeling on a blog?
• the emotional interfaces of blogs and the web haven’t progressed farther than the era of an 1997 Site Under Construction animated gif. We have emoticons. We can do a lot better than that.
• How do you make people comfortable on your site and create a sense of space? How do I do the equivalent of offering you a piece of cake here?
• How do you let people know you are with them even when you are not speaking and commenting
• How do you know when someone is listening to you?
• People speak and express differently when they know they are being listened to and cared about.
Extreme Web MakeOver + Under (written 9/21/10)
Have you ever dealt with something so overwhelming and confusing that you just gave up? That was me and my web sites. For years they’ve felt like a jewelry box full of knotted and tangled chains. If only I could get it together, I know there’s something valuable there.
I’ve been embarrassed and annoyed with myself. You can imagine how productive that has been.
So now I’m coming out with it. Being open and vulnerable and authentic is something I speak about, practice in my art and believe in. It’s always worked for me. So I’ll be sharing the journey.
And I finally think it’s possible to conquer the confusion. I’ve got a great team shaping up and I decided, as I often do, that the most helpful thing to do would be to own up to it publicly and share the journey with all of you. I’m not the only person with old web sites that don’t quite work now, or abandoned technical ideas making things difficult. Perhaps there’s something in this that will be helpful to you and perhaps you’ll have some good ideas. Perhaps we’ll discover something else
Maybe the mess isn’t your site, but you.
Ah, how can you tell the dancer from the dance?
I create in many different ways, often spontaneously on stage, and speak to many different “audiences.” I might keynote for Internet professionals at Web 2.0, I might be bringing together students at a southern college that’s been having hate speech problems performing my show Cookie, I might be giving advice to queer folks about coming out, I might just rant about Hillary and Obama running for President.
But as the always insightful Merlin Mann said to me “anyone is only one Google search away from other parts of you.” That’s our current version of Whitman’s insight that “I contain multitudes.”
So I will be combining, and organizing, my work and information about me for the many different people who are interested in my work. I am not my keywords.
Why focus on a web site in 2010? Aren’t you on twitter?
Wired Magazine recently questioned the future of the web itself. At a time when the shiniest attention is going to iPhone and iPad apps and Facebook and other “activity streams” which are certainly unmoored from a central place or site, why do this? I’ve been tweeting way more than blogging. Why should I go back to focussing on my web site(s)? Just as some are declaring email bankruptcy, shouldn’t i just declare web site bankruptcy?
There are 3 good reasons:
1. I’ll be able to better find and share all the work I’ve made.
I have lots of writing and years and years of great video and audio content from all kinds of shows, including: stand-up, Cookie (my first interactive show in which I’ve baked over 25,000 chocolate chip cookies with audiences all over the US) and my deep love the Heather Gold Show (soon to be renamed subvert w heather gold and based on subvert.com), a talk show in which the guests are there to spark a conversation with everyone. Don’t you want to see Maria Bamford riff ridiculously on her depression or see me call out Julia Allison in the audience and have her sit on my lap when she booed then Valleywag editor Owen Thomas on my infamous SXSW Gossip panel? How about punk rock legend Lynnee Breedlove connecting with Darfur survivor Gadet Riek? I have amazing moments but it’s hard to share them if they’re just going to be like another tangled necklace in the jewelry box.
2. I’ll make more work.
I need a sense of space in order to create. Working with designers at Wolff Olins years ago made me conscious that blank space is essential for me to make something new. I need to know that something will have a place to go. Knowing where something will go and that it has it’s place to go helps free my mind.
3. It’ll be easier to find my stuff and me and much easier to give me money.
Like many artists I work to support myself through my creative work. In my case that includes speaking about what I learn through my art and teaching it to others and applying it to business (which needs art the most). I need a clear central place where people can find my work and out about me, get to know me, hire me and access and buy my work. I want to get to know you too and I’ve got twitter and facebook and podcast chats and live shows to help me do that. Perhaps that will happen on my site too. But not until something simple and basic works first.
Bonus Reason: The open web matters. I don’t care how many streams I end up creating or that my stuff will travel and be posted all over the web (I will creative commons license most all of it), all those links need to go somewhere. Tummeling, which I do and speak, teach and podcast about, is all about making connections and the best way for me to make connections between different kinds of work that I’ve done is through a central site.
The obstacle of being early
I started a web presence back in 1996. Like many I knew I was blogging before it was called that and before there was handy software to make it happen. So some kind friends who’d begun a small (now defunct) web agency developed a custom publishing tool for me to make subvert.com possible. (Thanks Eric Lawrence and Dan Eckam / eyephonic) Unlike Ev or Ben and Mena, it didn’t occur to me that they should sell this tool to everyone. But I have no right to feel bad. I can always listen to Justin Hall‘s Great Opportunities I Missed at my 2000 Internet Roast)
I can’t tell you how long it took to get all the stuff I’d published into real blogging software. (Thanks Paul Schreiber). It’s easy to get attached to the tool you’ve used, but it’s easier to use the open tools lots more people are using *now.*