Please click the link at left to visit the new home of Writer Way at

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why the invoice is (not) in the email

For the past three years I've been using a wonderful online app for simple project tracking and billing for my writing business. I can access it from either of my computers, even when I'm on the road, and I don't have to worry about backups.

Or so I thought.

A year ago the app developer, who had been working on a pro version of the app, got a job with Facebook and stopped updating the free app. However, since the app was quite stable, she left the site up and running for the "legacy" users like me.

Today the site wouldn't load, and I discovered that the phone number (obtained from a Who Is lookup) is out of date.

Is this a temporary server glitch or The End of the app? If it's the end, it means this month's project tracking records are inaccessible — ironic, because, when I visited the site last night, I noticed that October is the best month my business has ever had.

I've spent the past hour researching tracking and billing apps. The apparent winner? A paid online service, Harvest, which offers a good monthly rate for a one-person business and provides the first month free.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What we say, what they hear

Canadian author and blogger Crawford Kilian has put together a guide for Canadians trying to grok American political English. Sample: "Pundit: High-functioning moron who can log on to Blogger or TypePad."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meet the "corporate newsfeed"

R.I.P.: The "corporate blog."

Meet the "corporate newsfeed."

I owe a big debt to a senior product manager at a meeting I attended earlier this week. When the presentation about search engine optimization techniques turned to my role in creating a corporate blog, I got a good look at her expression. It started with incredulous and progressed to annoyed. Her face told me that "blogging" is something she associates with an 18-year-old with a Facebook account, not with a major corporation's marketing strategy.

She has a point.

Yes, yes, I went on to explain the effect that blogs have in terms of Google rankings; the algorithms reward getting a steady stream of fresh, keyworded information onto a business website. And pretty soon she came around to embrace the concept to the point where she wanted to discuss topics for the blog posts.

But I decided right then and there that one of the dumbest things I've ever done is to repeatedly sell skeptical managers and executives on the benefits of a "corporate blog." Why beat my head against the wall, when I could get immediate comprehension and endorsement (and likely, a better hourly rate) for offering them a "corporate newsfeed?"

I'm still an advocate of blogging for small business sites where a personal tone, or the owner's identity, is key to branding. That sort of writing is, in fact, quite close to what we think of as traditional blogging.

But, quite frankly, the concept of the corporate blogs has always been awkward. Most CEOs and marketing directors are too busy to blog consistantly, so the posts are either ghost-written under their names or, weirdly, anonymous. A corporate newsfeed, written by a team and edited by a communications professional (yes, that would be me), is quite a bit more honest and direct. And, to come full circle, isn't that what blogging is all about?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Big Conversation at BigFoot

Yesterday the Twitterverse live-blogged the BigFoot Blogging Conference. Today the blogs are weighing in with some in-depth analyses.

Baconismyenemy provides a newcomer's take on the day-long event at UW. "People are excited and energized about what they are doing. This attitude is infectious. People are doing good work that they love doing. Who doesn’t want to be around that?!?" she notes.

Nerdseyeview gives...well, just that. "It was more conversational than educational for me, but that in itself says a lot about the wildly social direction blogging is going," she writes. Her post captured the tenor of the event perfectly.

And Mary Pat Whaley made a sharp mini-video at the event. Wow!

Friday, October 10, 2008

BigFoot URLS

URLs for some of the sites I'll be citing tomorrow at the BigFoot Blogging Conference.

The History of Weblogs

The Register (on blog conferences)

The Register (on teenage girls blogging)

Anne Kilkenny email (repost of)

Guy Kawasaki's blog "How to Change the World"

Seth Godin's blog

iStock — photos, artwork, video, etc.

Cute Overload

Unmoderated comments:
Making Light

Immoderate comments:
Horse's Ass

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Professional recognition

You can control how you go about seeking professional recognition but you can't control how or when it comes — or what you'll be doing when it arrives.

The news of the biggest and most exciting contract I ever won came just minutes before one of my best friends called to report a horrible family tragedy that ended with his mother's death. My teammates went out to celebrate getting the contract; I went to my friend's house and stayed sat him through a long, sleepless night.

Yesterday morning I sat down to eat my Cheerios and read the Wall Street Journal and was thrilled to find in the Journal an extensive article by jazz critic Nat Hentoff praising Yizkor, the new album by David Chevan and Afro-Semitic Experience with cantor Alberto Mizrahi. A old friend from New Haven, Stacy Phillips, plays in the group. Stacy, a teacher, writer, and performer, is a "musician's musician" — renowned in the upper echelons of bluegrass, Western swing, and klezmer, but (despite a Grammy and 40 years of professional work) not a "name" who could sell out a venue like the Triple Door or the Moore Theatre.

"Never before have I heard this lyrically powerful a fusion of Jewish and jazz souls on fire," Hentoff kvelled over the group's performance. At last! I thought.

Sometimes recognition comes and you're so sure you won't get it that you fail completely to react. That happened to me yesterday. I've recently begun writing short speculative fiction; the SF field is replete with contests and small magazines for the beginning writer, and I submitted stories to two contests. My goal was to place in one of the two contests.

The first contest, part of Fencon V in Dallas, had the results announced at the convention last weekend. However, I wasn't at the convention, and had no way of finding out how I'd done. Tuesday evening I contacted a Twitter friend who had attended Fencon and asked him to check the convention program for the contest results. He wrote back:

"The 1st place short story winner was "Dark Running" by Justin Macumber; 2nd place "Undying Love" by K. G. Anderson (you, congrats); 3rd place 'The Color of Midnight" by Dan Hiestand. Alas, only the winner's tale was published in the Fencon V booklet. I don't know if they will post them online."

I found out in such a roundabout way that it didn't really sink in. All I could think was: OK, it didn't get published, all rights remain with the author, so I should workshop this, rewrite it, and submit it to some small 'zines.

It was only after I told a friend about the contest results and he replied "What shall we do to celebrate?" that it sunk in: A story I'd created had placed in a contest, and I'd met my (admittedly modest) writing goal for the year.

I celebrated by harvesting the basil and making pesto. So there.

BigFoot Blogging Conference this Saturday

The first BigFoot Blogging Conference, featuring ubergeek Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome and Gnomedex fame, is this Saturday at the University of Washington.

The conference, sponsored by and the University of Washington's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is intended as an opportunity for bloggers to get together, exchange information, and hear from speakers on a variety of blogging topics. Monica Guzman, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Big Blog and Tracy Record, of West Seattle Blog, will talk about news blogging (from two very different perspectives); Andru Edwards of Gear Live Media will talk about technology news blogging; I'll be talking about the principals of blogging in general and corporate ghost-blogging in particular; and Pirillo will likely be talking about how he's used vlogging to build Lockergnome into one of the highest-traffic sites on the web.