Fascinating Video Interview with Evan Williams

Evan Williams is someone who’s made an incredible mark on the Internet.  He founded Blogger, co-founded Twitter, and is working on his third startup Medium.   Below is a video interview that he did with Google Ventures Partner Kevin Rose for his interview series Foundation.   It’s about an hour long but totally worth the watch.

I Miss MyBlogLog

mybloglog-new-recent-readers-widgetRemember the web app company MyBlogLog? It was a widget that you’d put on your blog that’d show the face of other MyBlogLog users when they visited your website.

When using it, you really saw first hand how writing about something brought people to your website. When you write about someone, if they’re tracking where they’re talked about, that person might/would actually come to your site and read what you wrote.

I’ve been talking about the advantages of social media with a number of colleagues. Seeing stats from Google Analytics or AddThis are great but it misses the context of who that person is. For example, you might only be getting 10 visitors a day to your blog BUT its the right 10 people. That was something MyBlogLog did really well.

Most visitors to a blog or any online community aren’t going to actively contribute. There visit is they way of passively participating. There needs to be a way of making that visit more meaningful.

When all you see is the traffic from Google Analytics, it’s too easy to get discouraged and quit. Most do.

Talk about yourself. It’s what your readers want.

I love sharing what I’m thinking, reading or seeing (photos/Instagram) via social media. It gives me an avenue for expressing myself. But… I never know, of everything that I share, what connects with people. What do my friends & online followers want to read?

Well, online reputation score Klout recently released a large update. They’ll show you of all your posts and which got the most engagement. In the end, what matters is engagement. It doesn’t mean much to have 1 million people follow you on Twitter, if they don’t click on the stuff that you’re posting.

It was fascinating to see what Klout came back with. I saw the highest engagement and exercised the most influence when I talked about myself or my family. People were excited to hear about our latest travels, new photos of the dog, my latest culinary creations, or what’s happening with Lauren’s startup Umba Box.

The experience underscored the importance that this medium is the most powerful when you’re sharing yourself. People subscribe to your feed, wherever it might be, because they want to keep up with you personally. Talk about yourself and what you’re going through/experiencing.

The same idea applies to business and organizations, especially at the early stage. People are using/trying your products for the usefulness of the product but also because they support you personally. Your users follow you because they’re rooting for your success. When you win, they want to celebrate with you. If you have your service/product has a problem, be transparent about it and your users/customers/readers will understand.

I manage all of our online marketing analytics at HelloWallet. I can see which posts our followers engage with. We write these great posts with incredible insights about personal finance. But… what gets us the most engagement is when we talk about what’s happening at the company & with our team personally.

So go out there and share.  Be transparent.

So… I Started A Food Blog. Meet “Justin Loves Food.”

So… if you’ve been asking yourself, why I haven’t been blogging here, it’s because I still struggle with what to write about.

This blog has predominantly been about the cross section of technology and people.   Over the last 3 months, I haven’t seen a whole lot that I could say that hasn’t been said by others.  Plus there isn’t a whole lot that new that’s getting my mental neurons working in the way which forces me to run to my computer and write.

I still want to write but just had to find something else to write about.  If you know me, you know that one of my passions is food.  My joke is that “eating is a lifestyle that I take breaks from.”

For me, food has always been something that’s brought parts of my various communities together.   When my family gets together around the dinner table, we will sit around and chat, even hours after all the food has been cleared away.  Some of my favorite times here in DC have been sitting around my dining room table with close friends and a few bottles of wine in the middle of the table.

Food has always been something that I’ve been fascinated by and enjoyed discovering.

I’ve decided that it’d be the subject of my new blog.  The blog is called Justin Loves Food.

This doesn’t mean that I’ll completely stop writing this blog.  I’m sure that I’ll come back to it from time to time.  My day job is still working at a Web startup.  As I run across new things and ideas, I’ll be here to chronicle it for you.

In the mean time, I’m going to chronicle my culinary adventures on Justin Loves Food.  Check it out, I’ve already gotten about 15 posts up.

In some of the posts, I’ll write about very geo-specific things, like a restaurant in a specific part of the country but what I’ll try and do is always impart something that I learned while eating there so that there will always be something for someone.

Send me your feedback – jthorp@gmail.com

Re-finding my muse…

Wikipedia describes a muse to be the “goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.”

Well as some of you have noticed, I have taken a small break from blogging.  I felt like I had lost my muse.   I didn’t know what to write about.  A lot of things that I was writing about and thinking about was boring myself so I decided to withdraw, reconnect with what’s happening in the world, and start up again.  This is me starting up again.

It’s funny because it all started right around when I listened to the audio of Merlin Mann and John Gruber’s talk from SXSW about how to be a better blogger.  They asked the question, “what are you obsessed with?

After thinking about it, I found this question increasingly hard to answer.   Do I want to be the guy who blogs about social media? Not really.  Do I want to be the guy who writes about a new CSS problem?  Not really.  Do I want to be the guy who reposts the random thing that I find on Digg or Google Reader?  Only if I can really add something to the convo.

I needed to figure out where I could focus my intellectual fire power, which led to me thinking more about where generally my passions lie.

I love what I do… commnity management. I love serving people.  I love helping people connect together. I love helping communities form, especially when it’s in a way that may not have happened otherwise. These are the things that I’m obsessed with.

I do love technology but for me it really is just a means to an end and not the end.   It absolutely doesn’t matter to me whether or not community is built using technology.  All too often I feel like we lean on technology too hard and end up missing out on the great memories that could be made with offline community.

This is the stuff that I want to write about.  This is the stuff that I think about all the time.  It’s what I’m obsessed with.

So… expect more cool things coming from this blog soon.

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The Explorer of the Past

I just started reading the the book “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace” by David G. Post. He starts out the prologue with a quote from Lytton Strachey, which is pretty rad. I’d thought i’d share…

If the explorer of the past is wise, he will… attack his subject in unexpected places;  he will fall upon the flank and the rear;  he will shoot a sudden revealing searchlight into obscure recesses, hitherto undivined.  He will row out over the great ocean of material, and lower down into it, here and there, a little bucket, which will bring up to the light of day some characteristic specimen, from those far depths, to be examined with careful curiosity.

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Taking Time To Reflect

I think one thing this blog has taught me is the importance of taking time each day to reflect and write about those reflections.  The act of sitting down and trying to write about how an experience moved me forces me to think harder about that experience and understand it deeper.  Plus I get the added benefit of sharing my reflections with all of you.   You get to tell me about your similar experiences.  We all get to grow together.