Plurk plurk plurk (I just like to hear the word in my head)

Standard

I was using Twitter for awhile but not really getting into it much. Like a lot of people who make their first foray into that micro-blogging service, I wasn’t really sure how to use it. I used to have one Twitter on my RSS feed reader who was really good at it, but then he traveled constantly, had presentations about fascinating tech stuff like software developments, and knew lots of interesting people in his field, people whose names even I recognized. So he made for some very good Tweeting.

Me? I’m an unknown freelance writer who mostly works from home and considers herself lucky if she could travel overseas at least once a year. At least my Dallas trips have some cool shopping reports.

PLURKING

Anyway, I’ve recently found Plurk, the great blogger and artist Shai Coggins having first introduced me to it. B. laughs at the name, and yes, the name is pretty weird, not to mention the logo. (I mean, what the hell is that? An elephant with its head chopped off and a bone sticking through it? Creeeeepy.) Still, it’s so much more fun and interactive than Twitter, as you have all your friends hanging out on the same open space, and you can watch the conversations all at once rather than having to scroll down to catch older ones.

Also, it’s easier (to me, anyway) to find new friends on Plurk, as you can check out conversations your current friends have with their friends and decide if they’re people you want to get to know as well. It can be hard to find new friends on Twitter, not just because of the sheer number of people using it but also because of the awkward interface.

TWITTER’S LOSSES, PLURK’S GAINS

Oh, and did I mention that Twitter’s rapid growth has resulted in some pretty frequent slowdowns and service interruptions? At one point their Replies function was shut down entirely for days on end, which resulted in quite a few Twitter folks writing angry posts on their respective blogs about abandoning Twitter entirely and finding a more robust service. Several times a day I’ll also try and post something on Twitter, only to get an Oops! page letting me know that heavy usage at that moment won’t allow me to update and that I should try again shortly. Yeah, right. I have that much time to twiddle my thumbs while I wait for Twitter to get its act together.

So if you’re interested in checking out this new, real-time social networking medium, now’s the time to do it. Play around and see how many friends you can find in this small community. You can find my Plurk widget on the right hand side of this page, and you can see the kind of stuff people like to post. And feel free to visit my profile and add me on as a friend. Would love to see you there!

USING MICRO-BLOGGING FOR PROMOTION & MARKETING

Lots of bloggers (Darren Rowse comes to mind) use these micro-blogging media as a means to promote their blogs and products, network with like-minded souls, and just hang out while taking a break from their jobs. The nature of the medium (maximum of 140 characters — not words — means that you can carry on quick, casual conversations without worrying about it taking up too much of your time. (Although I warn you that Plurk can be very addictive, even more so than Twitter.) If you’re a writer always on the lookout for ways to promote your work, your latest novel or e-Book or consulting services, this might be a good, easy option.

If, for example, you wrote a book about phobias, you can poll fellow Plurkers about their individual fears or phobias or ways that they’ve dealt with them. You can link to your blog posts about the subject, although I strongly recommend against using Plurk to do nothing but link to your blog. Otherwise, people will see through your blatant marketing push and ignore you. After all, this is supposed to be about building community, not a marketplace.

Include your Plurk widget on your blog or Web site so that visitors can check out your profile and add you on as a friend. You can begin to build your audience for your book or writing services, not to mention a community whom you can engage on the subjects you know best.

Again, though, Plurk can be terribly addictive, which can only mean one thing for working writers: time away from your writing. Still, it’s a great way to chat with friends and find out what’s going on in their day or in their part of the world without taking too much time out of your schedule.

The Death of the Newspaper Salesman

Standard

More layoffs are in store for a venerable, award-winning newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News. As a journalist this concerns me personally, as I make part of my living by crafting and providing fresh, well-written news and features for various publications, including newspapers. The fact that the Mercury News is affected pains me even more, as the pub is such a well-respected name in the business. Their staff won Pulitzers back in the day for an expose on erstwhile Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ “ill-gotten wealth” (a popular term in the Philippines nowadays) that many cite as the beginning of the end for the man and his corrupt administration.

Still, is anyone really surprised about news such as this? Newspapers have been losing readership for years, even more so since the Web really exploded in the late 1990’s. I read the Grand Junction Free Press during the week, The Daily Sentinel on Sundays, and occasionally the New York Times, the Denver Post, or the Rocky Mountain News. That is, if they’re lying around at the coffee shop for free. But for the most part, I get my news from NPR and various sources on the Web. My favorite news sites after NPR is actually the Sydney Morning Herald and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The latter is fairly obvious, while the Morning Herald is just an extremely well-written and thoughtful broadsheet, with insights about the world from a non-US lens. I devoured the paper during the time I spent in Sydney several years ago and came home with a bunch of clippings. It’s a useful and informative look at world events from the perspective of a Western nation that’s not the US, one with an eye towards Asia and who recognizes that the Asia-Pacific region is where we’ll see the most action over the next century.

But again, I read that online. While I love the tactile nature of newsprint (minus the inky smudges they leave on my fingers and any white fabric within touching distance), it’s much cheaper and easier for me to catch the day’s news and analysis online, where I spend most of my day anyway.

Today’s journalists and other media professionals, including freelance writers who still derive most of their income from offline sources, would do well to begin learning more about writing for the Web. Whether it’s starting a blog at your newspaper or on your own, or perhaps starting your own Web site focusing on anything from snarky political commentary to selling your baseball cards, the best way to soak up the free education provided by the wild wild Web is to just jump in and join the fray. Start your own media empire. Create the kind of content you’ve always wanted to read and write, as opposed to the tightly circumscribed text you’re required to churn out for your boss or editor.

Don’t get caught up in any romantic fantasies about The Front Page and the dying art of newspaper writing. I love it as much as the next journalist, but I’m pragmatic enough to know that the future of information sharing, even literary journalism, lies in the electronic frontier. The last thing you want to do is to get left behind while the rest of the world spins away in that digital vortex without you.

Public agencies still slow on the uptake

Standard

This article in the Industry Standard reminds me of a public agency I once worked for that only recently introduced the whole world of blogging to its employees. And this is an agency full of knowledge workers who deal specifically with information dissemination.

I agree with the interviewees that without engaging actively in communication with one’s audience (whether we’re referring to job seekers or one’s political constituents), an organization can become seriously left behind in the global competition for knowledge and talent, not to mention innovation. If an agency doesn’t even have a decent Web site with a modern design, much less a blog, I’m more inclined to think of it as a dinosaur that doesn’t have the best interests of its audience at heart. In addition I’ll wonder about its effectiveness.

That goes for companies as well. Sure, there may be some local businesses that may not necessarily need a blog or Web site, but for a large number of industries, not having one is the equivalent of being completely invisible to one’s potential customer base, especially if you’re looking at the X and Y Generations who constitute nearly half the population. We crack open the phone book maybe twice a year, if that often. Get on the Web, or get left behind.