Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Blogging Heroes

Blogging Heroes
By Michael A. Banks
(Author's Website/Blog)
Publisher: Wiley (Indiana, USA)
Published on December 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0-470-19739-4
298 pages

Among more than 102,000,000 blogs, a few stand out as influential, ground-breaking, and singularly successful. These thirty bloggers, who write about everything from business trends to parenting, have been featured in Wired magazine, Popular Science, and on CNN, NPR, MSNBC, and 20/20. In one-on-one conversations with Michael A. Banks, these innovative, creative thinkers have shared their tactics, their philosophies, what drives them, how they mine for subject matter, and their personal secrets for success. Come and learn from the masters. - Synopsis found in the back cover

Page 30: "A successful blog is like a hungry pet that needs to be walked, fed, washed, cleaned up after, and loved regularly."

Nothing beats hearing from the top bloggers themselves about what it takes to achieve blogging success. Michael A. Banks, an author of more than 40 books including the bestseller Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation has taken this huge effort of interviewing 30 of world's top bloggers. He identified a shortlist of interesting blogs in several categories from business trends and the inner workings at Microsoft to parenting tips, personal secrets, DIYs, technology tips and many more.

A lot of background work went into the project: Finding the 30 people to interview by consulting the Technorati lists, Digg, Alexa and other resources; research on each blogger that often resulted in follow-up questions and revisions, contacting and inviting them to be a subject in the book; and logistic arrangements where mostly those interviews were conducted by telephone due to advantage of audio cues, not to mention other stuff too such as recorder and other telecommunication facilities. When cancellation happens, he had to quickly find backups and then there were technical glitches. After all of that, there were transcriptions, writing and editing. As you can see, lots of effort has been put in place to bring you this excellent book. Although this is mostly a book about business blogging, the tips and secrets shared are very much applicable to personal bloggers like us.

You must be curious as to who these top bloggers are, so here's the list:
  1. Dave Taylor: The Intuitive Life Business Blog
  2. Chris Anderson: The Long Tail
  3. Gina Trapani: Lifehacker
  4. Ina Steiner: AuctionBytes
  5. Mary Jo Foley: All About Microsoft
  6. Dave Rothman: TeleRead
  7. Frank Warren: PostSecret
  8. Mike Masnick: Techdirt
  9. Mark Frauenfelder: BoingBoing.net
  10. Robert Scoble: Scobleizer
  11. Peter Rojas: Engadget
  12. John Neff: Autoblog
  13. Ken Fisher: Ars Technica
  14. Deborah Petersen: Life in the Fast Lane
  15. Joel Comm JoelComm.com
  16. Brian Lam: Gizmodo
  17. Kristin Darguzas: ParentDish
  18. Chris Grant Joystiq
  19. Scott McNulty: The Unofficial Apple Weblog
  20. Philipp Lenssen: Google Blogoscoped
  21. Brad Hill: Weblogs, Inc.
  22. Steve Rubel: Micro Persuasion
  23. Rebecca Lieb: ClickZ
  24. Deidre Woollard: Luxist
  25. Gary Lee: An Internet Marketing Web Site
  26. Richard MacManus: Read/WriteWeb
  27. Eric T.: Internet Duct Tape
  28. Victor Agreda: DIY Life
  29. Steve Garfield: Steve Garfield's Video Blog
  30. Grant Robertson: Download Squad
There is a standard set of questions, though you could see them worded differently in different interviews, and then you'll see them progress into more complex matters such as getting traffic, maintaining quality, mining for subject matter, dealing with difficulties, and so on. Some of the questions posted were as follows (not in their exact wordings):
  1. What inspired the bloggers to start blogging?
  2. Were they blogging for money?
  3. How much time do they spend blogging?
  4. Do they post or drop comments on other blogs?
  5. What tips or advice do they offer other bloggers?
  6. ... and many more, in context with the progression of the interview.

At the end of each interview, readers can review the main points that are of special interest to them under the section "Points to Review". Recurring themes seem to be in order in most, if not all the interviews i.e.

  1. Write with passion
  2. Find a niche and focus on that niche
  3. Keep up to date by reading tonnes of other blogs that interests you using RSS
  4. Write well (grammatically correct, well-honed style, friendly tone, etc.)
  5. ... you really should read the book to get more of these apparent but often ignored tips.

I'd love to quote Chris Anderson in his interview: "A blog is a scratch-pad, and a discipline to collect your thoughts, compose your thoughts, advance your thoughts, and do it in public in a way that can amplify your thoughts by not only reaching an audience, but also getting feedback on your thoughts."

The Blogging Heroes that I owned is full of highlights, notes in the margin, a bit of doodle here and there. It's a book that stimulates thinking and once you see something useful, you can't wait to apply them. It affirms some of practices I've already incorporated in my blogging and that's reassuring. My favourite interview is Frank Warren of PostSecret, partly because his blog has been one of my favourites for the longest time, and also it's amazing to read how he organizes his weekly post by going through the creative process of looking through thousands of postcards that he receives on a daily basis.

This is truly a very readable book. No matter at what stage of blogging you're at, this book will be a gem. I also like the bright green word cloud cover cleverly designed by Michael Trent. Get into the heartbeat of these top bloggers and get a feel of what drives them (passion and not money). I give this book 5 stars.