July 2006




Looking Back: Hurricane Katrina Blogging

hurricain.jpgThe 2006 hurricane season started in June and we have been lucky this summer with only two named storms so far.  Last year we were not so lucky.  Brian pointed out in his photo blog on Flickr the work he did on the Slidell Hurricane Damage blog last year after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at our disaster blogging efforts.

Our effort began on August 27th with a post where I suggested, “Hurricane Katrina - Get Out!” Brian and his family were able to leave the small town of Slidell, just across the lake from New Orleans, and get to Dallas before the storm hit.  Next, NOAA started podcasting the Hurricane as reported here.  I wrote another post on August 30th describing the background behind the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog where I described the reasoning for the creation of the blog:

Everytime Brian and I would talk he was telling about the lack of news from the area.  He had little tidbits, but no one had the full story.  The picture to the right is the bridge to Slidell.  I suggested that he start a blog where he could share his feelings and information about Katarina and its wrath (this seemed obvious since he runs a blog consultancy).  Anyway, he had one of the techs set it up and within an hour he was posting.  Shortly thereafter a reporter from CNN IM’d him asking for information, next Brian’s high school buddies were calling him after they read the blog and all sorts of people who had little bits of information were contacting him.

Later that day I reported that our church was taking donations of money and food to help victims who fled to Baton Rouge.  By this time Business Week, CNN, Boing Boing, Instapundit, Doc Searls, NevOn, PRspeak, Fred Wilson, Robert Scoble, Ochman, Tyler, Windley, David Parmet and countless others had promoted the site sending thousands of visitors to our posts over the course of the day.  We raised over $100,000 in donations that we could confirm, and perhaps thousands more that we never were able to track from these visitors.

Tragically, both this blog and the Slidell Blog attracted thousands of comments from people searching for their friends and family on the Gulf Coast.  The comments, like this one, were heart breaking:

Mac Pearce wrote:  Desparately seeking info on safety of 82 yr old uncle that refused to leave Slidell. He is ALONE at following address : 750 Teal Dr. off Pontchartrain & Kostmayer adjacent to Abney Elementary (white Jeep in driveway). We evacuated to Mobile and cannot make it back. If possible, PLEASE make attempt personally or by notifying Police Dept. that Mr. Billy Dubourg at above address may be desparately seeking assistance. ANYONE that can respond to me by E-mail ( tmpearce@——-.net ) would be GREATLY appreciated !! Thank you, Mac Pearce

By September 5th I reported in a post titled, “Weblogs Work for Small Towns” that the Slidell blog had attracted more visitors than lived in the entire town.  The totals were as follows: 316,533 hits, 47,201 vistors, 258 posts and 2,000+ comments.  By the end of the blogging effort over 410 posts were made on the blog and over 91,000 comments (some of those are obviously comment spam).

Brian wrote about the lessons we learned in a post titled, “For Recovery 2.0: Disaster Blog Lessons Learned.“  I think he summed up the net-net result of the blog when he explained,

So, we started the Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog to make the information come to us and to make all damage information on Slidell easily available.

The information truly flowed TO us - we did not create anything - simply create an outlet for consumer generated news from the area.  It was amazing.  Brian created some bullets for future disaster bloggers to think about:

  • Neighbors Need Info.jpgInformation is a necessity.  Speed matters.  As the sign says, neighbors need info as well as the other supplies.
  • Make it simple.  Then simpler still.  Unlike Weblogs Work visitors, we were trying to provide info to folks with very little blog experience.  The IE crowd.  The word blog put them off.  They didn’t know how to comment, etc.  We have no time for learning curves in such situations.
  • Be ready for complexity.  The butterfly wing effect in full effect.  So much more is broken than our houses.  The disaster response, including that which is swarmed on by the Web, has to keep going deep.  Business continuation issues.  Psychological impacts.  I really don’t know what will happen to our town, but I know our recovery efforts are going to have to keep changing as the needs change.
  • Check your politics.  We need all allies, all hands on deck.  Even as the news & blog postings around the storm started to take on a political charge, I very consciously avoided that for the Slidell blog.  I wanted all readers, all info sources, the full network.  There will be plenty of time later for meta discussions.
  • The problem you think is the problem might not be the problem.  I didn’t intend on the site becoming a clearinghouse for missing persons.  Open systems let folks use the resources to solve their own problems.  We need to be pliable in how we design these things.
  • Cast your net wide.  As I said, I tapped everyone I knew.  Fred Wilson in NYC helped flow traffic and technical help my way.  David Parmet got us visibility.  Paying attention to the right Technorati tags helped us grab all the interest in Slidell during those days.  It’s crazy the connections that lead back.  My best & earliest on-the-ground informant, Derek Babcock, came to me when his uncle in Miami read the blog and let me know he was there.  My friend Alex Muse posted about Slidell and what people could do to help on three different blogs and commented on Mark Cuban’s blog, raising well over $100,000 in donations from across the country.  A high school friend in Denmark emailed updates about her parents’ house. Others have written to me to donate money specifically for Slidell help, and we’re setting up a fund for that.  We have no idea where the connections will lead us, so cast the bread on the waters and see what happens.
  • Rumors are rampant.  I worked hard to ferret out rumors, and yet still propagated a few.  The water tower had fallen.  Florida Avenue Elementary was destroyed, etc.  I never did publish all the gruesome body count rumors I heard.  There is a whole study to be done on the spread of disaster rumors.  We’ll do that in another post.

Obviously the Slidell blog has outlived its usefulness as a resource, but remembering how it served Brian, his community and our lives continues to provide a useful lesson.  We are proud to have been a part of the effort!

Alexander Muse | 4:48 pm | [3] Comments Tags: Blogs , blogging , brianoberkirch , slidell , weblogswork , hurricane , katrina | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



My Favorite Social Tools: Upcoming

I started with Flickr, clearly “The best way to store, search, sort and share your photos” and now I am ready to show you Upcoming. Both Flickr and Upcoming were bought by Yahoo and are great examples of social tools that work for me.

What: Upcoming is a social event calendar website that uses iCalendar and XML for content syndication. You can compare it to Evite (please stop using that service). What makes Upcoming so important is the ability for users to build connections between each other. For example, one of my contacts was attending an event called STIRR 1.5. I knew this because my friends events are listed on “My Upcoming” page. I clicked to see what Kristie was up to and found out that STIRR 1.5 was, “STIRR Mixers are blend of tech-social mixer and launchpad for new startups in an innovative format (the 60 second spot).” Neat, I should go to that so I clicked “Attend this event.” I was added to the event and then receieved an email from one of my contacts confirming that I would be there so that we could meet. He doesn’t know Kristie Wells, the contact that allowed me to discover the event in the first place, but he does know me. Kristie would have never thought to invite him, but now he will be coming.

Why: You can view events through your contacts or by metros. I have four metros setup on my account: Dallas, Austin, San Francisco and Miami. I can see public events in each metro regardless of whether or not a contact of mine is going. If I see an event that I am interested in I might click “watch event” instead of attend. Often one or more of my contacts will ping me to see if I am going, more often than not I am more interested in going if there are going to be people I know at the event. See how this works?

To Do: Sign up for an Upcoming account and add me as a contact. Check out my events or check out your metro. Start “watching” or “attending” a few events. Have fun!

Alexander Muse | 1:00 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialtools | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



My Favorite Social Tools: Flickr

More of you need to start using social tools so I decided to start a little series of posts called My Favorite Social Tools. I will start off with Flickr. Wow what a great tool. I have been a paid user since July of 2005 (I only know this because I had to renew my account the other day). At first I did not understand why Flickr was so great, but as the number of people I met from around the world added me as a Flickr contact I understood the value of Flickr. Let me start with the basics:

What: Flickr is a social picture sharing site started in 2004 by Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake. The best feature of flickr is the ability to add one or more “tags” to each photograph added to the site. Why is this so powerful? Take me for example: I have more than 8,000 photos on Flickr and finding a specific picture would be impossible if it were not for the tagging function. Each time I added a photo of my son I used the tag ethanmuse, that helps me narrow my search to just photos of him. But I have more than 1,000 photos of my favorite little guy, but good news, I used other tags such as soccer to describe the photos in greater detail. So I use the advanced search feature and search for photos of ethanmuse and soccer and find his soccer photos. You get the idea. Ethan’s Grandmother can search my photos for her tag (bethmuse) and Ethan’s tag to find photos containing both her and my son. Neat huh?

For Networking: I live in Dallas, Texas, but I have met lots of people on the West coast that I want to keep in touch with. It is hard to stay in touch with people you don’t see more than once or twice a year. More often than not I don’t have anything to say, certainly not anything worthy of an email or an IM, but I want to stay connected. Each day when I log into Flickr I am presented with the most recent picture added by each of my contacts. Usually five or six of my contacts has added a new picture each time I log in, so I open each photo in a browser tab. If the photo is comment worthly I might just make a note. Why? Why do you say hi in the hall when you walk by someone? It is a good way to say, “hey I am interested in you and your life, thanks for sharing it with me.” I know I love it when someone comments on one of my photos. Earlier this year I went to India and met almost 200 programmers and business people, many of whom have Flickr accounts. I have been able to stay connected to them from across the globe with pictures.

For Business: Back in April I wrote a posted titled, “Flickr as PR Tool…EyeFi” and wrote, “Got a great new product? Want to get a lot of people to see it? Get a power user on Flickr to take a picture of it. Scott Beale, also known as Laughing Squid, is a well know photographer. In fact, he may be the second most ‘internet famous’ photographer (Thomas Hawk is perhaps the most famous). So if you are going to create a product for photographers call up Scott and get him to take a picture of it. That is exactly what the Yuval Koren, the guy behind Eye-Fi, did. What is Eye-Fi? An SD memory card that will turn your camera into a wi-fi camera - no more USB cable. This is going to be huge! And Yuval, by simply showing it to one of the best know ‘internet famous’ photographer is getting his product in front of thousands of people who WILL buy the Eye-Fi. Very smart. More on Gizmodo here.” Check out Scott’s eyefi flickr pics.

To Do: Okay get a Flickr account right away. Add me as a contact, add a photo, tag it with a couple of tags (be specific) and lets start being social. You can setup your phone to send photos directly to Flickr (lots of people do it). You can use your photos to make books, prints, calenders and so on. Have fun!

Alexander Muse | 8:18 am | 1 Comment Tags: Blogs , flickr , socialtools | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Why CEOs Don’t Blog?

Randall Stross from the New York Times asks, “All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.s Use It?” He continues by suggesting that, “CHIEF executives are inclined to avoid activities generally deemed to be high-risk: Sky diving. Cliff jumping. Motorcycle racing. And blogging.” From our own experience it is rare that a busy CEO can be ‘THE’ voice of a company. Steve Rubel suggest that a CEO should only be one of the many voices heard from within a company. Scott Ryan, the CEO of one of our sister companies has a blog where you will rarely hear his voice. Why? He is busy talking to clients, prospects, managing people, holding meetings and so on. He clearly understands the value proposition, but he lacks the time to determine what to write about, much less the time to actually write. I think the main reason CEOs don’t blog is easy to figure out: CEOs ARE REALLY BUSY.

Alexander Muse | 8:03 am | [3] Comments Tags: Blogs , blogging , steverubel , ceo , nyt , randallstross | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Weblogs work for resumes!

Our team is working on a project to create a workable use case for the hResume microformat.  We are excited about microformats and not just because Yahoo and Microsoft are adopting them.  Our excitement comes from the ability for regular people (i.e. not Google) to make sense of the information on the web.  By using standard markup across the web the opportunities are endless.

The first phase, to create an hResume WordPress plugin is complete.  You can download the plugin here. What is it? It is a simple way to present your resume on your WordPress weblog. The resume data is marked-up using the hResume Microformat so that machines can read it.  When you create your resume or update it a ping is sent to our server (and Technorati’s) to let us know you updated it.  This information will be delivered to our resume listing site or to anyone else who wants to consume the hResume microformat.

Our second and third phases include the modification of our current QwikPing server to accept hResume pings from the plugin and the creation of a resume search website.  Look for those soon.  This is certainly a side project - i.e. lots of people have helped out including Brian Oberkirch, Chris Messina, Ryan King, Eric Davis, Fred Tubale and Alex Leverington.  Thanks guys!

Alexander Muse | 8:33 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , WordPress , microformats , hresume , alexandermuse , ryanking , brianoberkrich , chrismessina , ericdavis | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



One year later: weblogs work, but . . .

Weblogs Work is now part of Big in Japan! It took us a year to determined that weblogs do in fact work, but they are simply one social media tool a business or agency should consider. As a result we have decided to consolidate the Big in Japan and Weblogs Work brand into one with a renewed focus on helping businesses and agencies build turnkey social media programs by providing a broad spectrum of social tools including weblogs, wikis, podcasts, forums and feeds. Don’t worry, the Weblogs Work weblog won’t go away, it will continue to provide a place for the Big in Japan team to blog about social media. Can you believe it has been a year?

On April 12, 2022 I wrote the first Weblogs Work post titled, “Business Blogs the next big thing (that is already here)!” In July we began offering ‘blog consulting’ services to small companies. We also started having our programmers build various tools for our consultancy to effectively host shared and dedicated, single and multi-user blogs. Soon our clients got larger and our projects more complicated. Our programmers started building even more customized tools like elfURL, PodServe, FrankenFeed, InstantFeed and SocialMail. We even created a brand for our social tool effort called Big in Japan.

Almost ninety days ago it became obvious we had a choice to make. We could build an agency and expand our social media consulting practice or we could change our focus to exploit what we were already uniquely positioned to provide. Weblogs Work and Big in Japan are both brands owned by Spur (the holding company I manage). Spur also owns an IT support brand called Architel. Weblogs Work and Big in Japan had been stealing resources (data center space, servers, programmers and engineers) from the very start and it became clear we were very good at building, customizing, managing and supporting various social tools. Very few companies had the experience and resources to do what we were doing on a daily basis.

Just before the 4th of July we bit the bullet and decided to refocus our offering to provide agencies and brand managers enterprise class social tools complete with hosting, management and day-to-day support. Here is an example of our most popular offerings:

  • Social Media 101 – A two-day fire starting event for your company. Our trainers will show you how social media tools will change your business through a hands-on training event for up-to 20 employees per event. Includes 12 months of hosted/managed/supported weblog, wiki and podcast services.
  • Managed WordPress – Offering a multi-server WordPress implementation allowing for separation of presentation and database functionality. Supporting up-to 512 unique weblogs on two servers. Nightly backups and statistics included.
  • Managed PmWiki – Offering a highly secure wiki implementation allowing for up-to 256 unique wikis on a single server. Nightly backups and statistics included.
  • White Label PodServe – Offering a unique integrated podcast and telephony tool for your business.

Want to learn more? You can reach me directly at 1+214.550.2003 or just send me an email. We look forward to hearing from you!

Alexander Muse | 8:31 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs , socialmedia , podcast , biginjapan , weblogswork , blog , socialtools | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Rocket Boom = BayWatch?

BayWatch was able remain on the air during three decades (80’s, 90’s and 00’s) and throughout that period the female talent lasted an average of two years (Hasselhoff was the only one to make it through the entire series). The ratings would increase each time someone new was added and they will start to dip over time. Each actress who left found their career a little better than it was before the series. The concept of the show was fairly silly, but it worked for some reason.

Obviously Rocket Boom is no BayWatch, but I think the analogy is valid. I never spent much time watching Rocket Boom despite the fact that it is automatically loaded in my video iPod. I did watch a few episodes on a flight from Bangalore, India to London (I was desperate). I had not had a chance to see another episode since, but soon after the termination/resignation of Amanda Congdon and her replacement by MTV VJ Joanne Colan I decided to check out it out again. Joanne was funny, smart and good looking. I most likely won’t watch again until Andrew Baron hires another replacement, but I suspect Rocket Boom will continue and I am sure Amanda will find that her career is just a little better for working on Rocket Boom…

Alexander Muse | 1:57 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , rocketboom , baywatch | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Question: What social networking site generated 80% of the traffic?

Answer: MySpace.

MySpace vs Google Hitwise

Jeff Clavier reported today that MySpace surpassed Yahoo in terms of traffic according to Hitwise. This makes MySpace the number one Internet site. According to Jeff:

  • MySpace generated 4.45% of all U.S. internet visits
  • Top twenty search terms used were related to MySpace

News Corp paid $580MM for the web property last year, in a deal increasingly looking like a bargain. Only time will tell, but this sort of growth is amazing.

Alexander Muse | 8:26 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , jeffclavier , myspace | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Dell is now blogging. . .

Robert Scoble just pointed out that Dell is now blogging.  Lots of people are commenting including Jeff Jarvis (DellHell), Steve Rubel and Shel Holtz.

Alexander Muse | 9:43 am | No Comments Tags: Blogs | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



WordCamp - WordPress Conference Announced!

Save August 5th, 2006 for WordCamp in San Francisco.  The day long event will feature a free conference, BBQ for lunch, free WordPress t-shirts and a day packed with user and developer discussions.  Matt is still working out details like venue, but it promises to be a great event for the WordPress community.

Alexander Muse | 1:21 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , automattic , photomatt , wordcamp , mattmullenweg , sanfranscico | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It



Like It Matters, Now In WordPress

I’ve always loved having Like It Matters as my personal blog to use to cover subjects not quite right for Weblogs Work.  Now, I’ve finally started some clean-up on that site, moved it to a more logical URL (http://www.brianoberkirch.com) and started fresh with the latest version of WordPress.  Playing with themes now, but maybe I’ll get one of my rockstar design pals to do something funky fresh at some point.

Here is the new blog.  Here is the new feed.

Brian Oberkirch | 8:11 pm | No Comments Tags: Blogs , WordPress , brianoberkirch , likeitmatters , blog | Bookmark on del.icio.us | Digg It