Om’s Decade of Blogging

Om Malik delivered a thoughtful recollection of ten years at the front lines of the new, new media revolution yesterday when he recapped a decade of blogging that started in the earliest days of Dave Winer’s Userland, a humble beginning that has grown to one of the leading professional tech blog networks (GigaOm) and his rightfully deserved position as one of the world’s leading tech pundits.

We worked together in the mid-1990s at the launch of Forbes.com until he departed for San Francisco and I decamped for management consulting.  What started as a professional relationship quickly turned into a personal friendship that has endured over the years, perhaps forged in the mutual crucible of 85 Fifth Avenue and the dingy second floor office that served as a launch pad for many interesting people and personalities.

Some highlights of his essay that stood out:

  • Cacoethes Scribendi:  blogs scratch the itch to write for people accustomed to writing a lot. Moving from the intra-day publish-often always-on newscycle of Forbes.com to a monthly print schedule meant he needed a daily outlet. “When I was working for Forbes.com during the early days of the dot-com bubble, I learned a vital lesson – you had to write every day to be any good and to have a complete handle on the beat. There was no way around the plain-old beat the pavement reporting.”
  • Twitter Is Not a Blog Killer: maybe it is a communications vehicle for the barely literate, but 140 characters doesn’t stand a chance of competing with 250 words. “Twitter has only acted as an accelerator for my blogging role, allowing me the luxury of writing less but reaching far more people.”
  • On curation: “Mostly because curation and sharing of content has become as important as writing. By sharing videos, photos, links, or quotes we are all essentially editors and the sharing itself is an act of editorializing.”
  • And of course, what is a great blog post without a good list?

“Here are my 10 lessons learned:

  1. Blogging is communal: In 2008, I wrote that “blogging is not just an act of publishing but also a communal activity. It is more than leaving comments; it is about creating connections.” That is the single biggest lesson learned of these past 10 years. Every connection has lead to a new idea, new thought and a new opportunity.
  2. Being authentic in your thoughts and voice is the only way to survive the test of time.
  3. Being wrong is as important as being right. What’s more important — when wrong, admit that you are wrong and listen to those who are/were right.
  4. Be regular. And show up to blog every day. After all you are as fresh as your last blog post.
  5. Treat others as you expect yourself to be treated.
  6. (In 2006 I wrote this and it is worth repeatingDoc Searls once told me, and it has been one of the guiding principles for me: blog if you have something to say and respect your reader’s time. If you respect their time, they are going to give you some time of their day.
  7.  A long time ago, Slate’s Farhaad Manjoo asked mefor some tips on blogging and here is what I told him – Wait at least 15 minutes before publishing something you’ve written—this will give you enough distance to edit yourself dispassionately.
  8. Write everything as if your mom is reading your work, a good way to maintain civility and keep your work comprehensible.
  9. Blogging is not about opinion but it is about viewing the world in a certain way and sharing it with others how you look at things.

The tenth lesson comes from Kevin Kelleher when he was writing for us back in 2010. In his post, How the Internet changed writing he noted:

Many bloggers tailor headlines and posts so that they’ll surface at the top of search results, making them at once easier to find and less enjoyable to read. And this decade, a lot of other bloggers mistook a strong writing voice for caustic irreverence. But most eventually learned that writing with snark is like cooking with salt — a little goes a long way.”

 

Congratulations on ten years and here’s to ten more (at least) Om.

Bye-bye Barney

I never voted for Barney Frank — I couldn’t, he represented the next congressional district over from the Cape and Islands — and even if I could have I wouldn’t publicly expose my vote because, well, as an independent and former political reporter I’m conditioned not to tip my ballots in public.

I ran into him in July in Washington, in Reagan National Airport in the US Air terminal, both of us bound back to Boston; him for the beginning of some summer congressional break, me wrapping up a six month consulting engagement designing a social media metrics framework (if that isn’t a dreary bureaucratic cliche and hopeless mission, I don’t know what is) for a big public relations firm. He looked perturbed, a bit conscious of his face recognition among the people, hoping that no one would pick him out of the crowd and start chewing his ear about one contentious issue or another. He wasn’t alone, there was a New Hampshire congressman on the same flight, but there’s no mistaking Barney, one of the more visible and intelligent legislators of our time.

When I manned the statehouse bureau for the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune — that is when the parochial editors back in North Andover deigned to let me out of their sight and flee the smoke-filled newsroom and their inane assignments to interview Megabucks winners (“I’m gonna buy a Winnebago and a microwave oven …”) and write thumb-suckers about the weather in the royal, USA Today inspired, “we” (“We Hate Snow”) — there was a now famous Barney Frank campaign poster tacked onto the wall of the press room by the tinny loudspeaker that piped in the ravings of the state representatives.

“Neatness isn’t everything”

By that point in time (1984), Barney had graduated from the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and gone onto represent suburban Boston and Southeastern Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress. We reporters loved him for his lack of preening polish and his sharp wit,  his willingness to deliver the perfect mordant quote on any occasion. He was an unmade bed of a man, a schlub, a man living on an astral plane where clothes and body type didn’t matter. His statehouse office was a legendary mess.

He was one of the few elected types that would actually pop into the press room, a feral pen of hacks and wretches banging away on little pre-laptop Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100s, and yuck it up with the crew from the Lowell Sun, Quincy Patriot-Ledger, the Salem Evening News.  I was too green and intimidated to yuck it up with him or any of the big personalities in state politics, but I did love to lurk on the edge of the scrum, micro-cassette recorder held over the shoulder of some television or radio reporter, and listen to him dig into some opponent or issue with his slightly retarded lisp and swallowed “G’s”.

My favorite Barney Frank moment is this YouTube video, taken at a constituent town hall in New Bedford, when an unhinged Lyndon LaRouche candidate decided to mess with the wrong guy.

Politics and sexual proclivities aside, Congress has lost one of the smart ones. Henrik Hertzberg’s recollection in the New Yorker is worth the read. Today’s New York Times’ story about Frank’s retirement announcement at the age of 71 is somewhat depressing, only in that Frank blames the current partisan bitterness, lack of cross-aisle respect, and shallow-as-a-mud-puddle media coverage for his decision to leave the hustings and become a public intellectual.

“When he arrived in the House in 1981, he said, “you had Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan talking about how they were friends after 5 o’clock — although if you knew Reagan’s work habits it was really, like, after about 2:30.”

Now, Mr. Frank said, the notion that wrangling between Democrats and Republicans is “a competition between people of good will with different views on public policy” has vanished. For that, he blames Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker and current Republican presidential candidate with whom he has a tense history.

“Newt’s the single biggest factor in bringing about this change,” Mr. Frank said. “He got to Congress in ’78 and said, ‘We the Republicans are not going to be able to take over unless we demonize the Democrats.’ ”

Mr. Frank also blamed the conservative news media for the bitter divide that had made him reluctant to continue in Washington, as well as moderate voters who he said do not make their voices heard enough.”

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