WordCamp 2007

by francine Hardaway on July 22, 2007

Here I am at WordCamp 2007 not listening to a presentation about WordPress that is aimed at developers. I’m waiting for the next speaker, who is going to tell me about blogs at the NY Times.Wordcamp2007 If you’re wondering what I’m sitting on, it’s a throne in the Swedish-American Club in San Francisco, which I bet used to be a church. I’m sitting against a wall with the people who need power strips :-)

Why am I here? Because I went to Chris and Kristie’s pre-WordCamp breakfast so I could see them after their wedding. I met Brian Oberkirch there and we got into a conversation about iPhones, etc. He was walking over from Chris and Kristie’s to the meeting, so I walked with him. And suddenly, I’m inside. Andy Kaufman, the real estate blogger, is also here. And he has recently met Steve Groves
, who is a good friend of mine from Phoenix. More incredibly, I’m sitting next to Chase Granberry, who is also from Phoenix. Very bizarre.

This is, indeed, a hall of mirrors.

Now I’m hearing from Jeremy Zilar (jeremyz@nytimes.com), who is in charge of blogs for the NY Times. They have 100 blogs right now. 30-40 are active. They used to have only six or seven last year.
The elements of the blog are used to teach people about what is possible on the web. Jeremy spends most of his time teaching people how to use a medium that didn’t exist ten years ago and is just coming into form. Most people are still not sure what a blog is or how to use it to their best advantage.

So the NY Times teaches its potential bloggers a process. Jeremy usually starts with email, and works on to telling them how to use WordPress. He urges documentation. Name, About, and Blogroll are essential means of communications. Who is your audience, what’s your angle, how often will you be posting, and who will be posting. Then he tells them how to read blogs. He teaches that a blog is two way conversation. Writers and editors are not comfortable with this at first.

A blogroll is a very important part of a blog. For the City Room blog at the Times, the blogroll is a list of resources.
The Times also had to teach the writers to pay attention to comments.
Encouraging comments:
Most readers will comment in extreme situations
If they feel they are being listened to
If you misspell something and they comment and you correct it
Highlight a comment from a recent post

The concept of tags has been hard to introduce at the Times. Tag clouds as a visual representation of what’s being talked about are scary to some writers, who don’t want people to see what they are talking about the most. They don’t realize it’s a continuous conversation and they can change it going forward.

Jeremy said there is a certain kind of energy that you have to circulate around a blog to make people feel that it is fun to do and keep up. In order to generate that energy, people have to comment and the writer has to answer the commentators.

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