Sunday, October 16, 2005

ConvergeSouth - Creative Branding on Blogs

Continuing the ongoing coverage of ConvergeSouth....

Saturday afternoon - the last session of the day.

Michael Cobb Bowen, aka Cobb, is one cool dude. He runs a conservative blog AND a progressive blog. He is a smart African-American conservative blogger (no knee-jerk Regressive a la Hindrocket or Vox Day - but a serious and respectable thinker) whom I had the honor of meeting (and sharing one interesting car ride with) last week.

Now, I can make a lame excuse about being tired at the end of the day and worn-out by the exciting sessions that preceded this, thus not being very well concentrated on what Cobb was saying, but that would be a lie. Actually, how could one possibly focus on the presentation while sitting right behind Amanda Congdon? There is a reason - a GOOD reason - why there are more pictures from ConvergeSouth of Amanda than of all the other participants combined.

OK, OK, excuses, excuses. I do remember at least some of the stuff. And to help me (and you), Michael wrote a little intro and provided us with the bulleted points of his presentation.

How do you make yourself into an online brand? Michael divided the strategies into mechanical, personal and creative, although there is quite an overlap between the three. I would divide them differently: bells and whistles to make your blog (or your comments elsewhere) LOOK memorable; strategies for making friends online (community building); and strategies for increasing one's traffic. Of course, if you follow my taxonomy, there is still a lot of overlap.

Only a rather narrow circle of bloggers (those who met me in person?) think of me as Bora Zivkovic. For most, I am Coturnix. On some blogs I have a gravatar showing a Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) - my laboratory animal model. On some blogs I have an avatar - a photo of myself and John Edwards from a fundraiser. On some forums I go by "LiberalZoo" reflecting where I am (Chapel Hill was nicknamed "liberal zoo" by Jesse Helms) and who I am (a liberal and a zoologist). So, those are my multiple online personas. Cobb has many more (LOL).

If you look around, you will see that I am not much into bells & whistles. This blog looks downright nasty - I have to make it look a little neater soon. The hitmap needs to go. The moon-phases are more appropriate for my other blog than for this one. All the miscellaneous links need to go off the front page. I need to add an Amazon button because many people dislike PayPal. Blogroll is in a bad need of updating. Categories need some updating. I am more into eliminating bells & whistles than adding more of them. Ah well, if I am in a mood to do something here, I'd rather write a marathon post than fiddle with the template....

One new thing I learned at the session was the existence (and great potential as a blogging tool) of the Strip Creator. See Michael's own recent use of it. There is also Strip Generator (hat tip: AE), which I tried to use to make a comic-strip describing what REALLY happened during Cobb's session. I have no idea how to upload it on the blog, so you will HAVE TO go and read it here!

This post generated some linking and commenting about the role of TTLB ecosystem. Apart from being based on (erroneous to boot) The Great Chain Of Being, it is also notorious for its effect on hardening the hirerachy of blogs. Several months ago a number of important bloggers got out of the system and its relevance has been diminishing ever since. Cobb, like me, is a Large Mammal in the TTLB ecosystem. It is extremely easy to get that high (and very difficult to lose that status no matter how hard you try). What did it for me is one of the strategies that Michael calls "leaguing", i.e., joining blog alliances.

As soon as I joined the Progressive Blog Alliance I shot up to the Large Mammal status. Even when I moved the PBA list off the frontpage into my blogroll, I did not loose the status. I really need to get myself off of TTLB soon. Also, see this excellent article - it will make you think differently about the whole concept of TTLB.

Also, in the meantime, I have joined Liberal Coalition, which automatically places one in a cross-linking group that contains some strong bloggers (including one A-lister - Steve Gilliard), Big Brass Alliance, which is more of a 'community-building' kind of group with nothing automatic about the rise in linking, and the Circle of Scientific Assessment webring, a new blogger community that I expect to grow rapidly. I've also been considering joining a group for purposes of advertising - this one looks good.

I have hosted a dozen or so carnivals (some on this blog, some on the other one) and have sent my entries to many, many more. This is a great way both to get hits and to make online friends, as I have tried to explain at the conference. My blogroll is several months out of date. The REAL blogroll, the one I keep in my browser, contains about 80% blogs I discovered via carnivals - the bloggers who have similar interests as I have and who write well about them.

Much of the discussion centered on the "digital divide" - is blogging still unavailable to too many people, mainly the poor and the minorities? Is it mostly an economic divide or a cultural divide? I do not know. Your thoughts?

Well, at every session I had to - being me - say something. What I said here is that the best and most honest way to get recognized is to choose a few good blogs and keep posting intelligent, literate, polite comments that add something important or novel to the discussion. The hosts and the other commenters will, over time, start paying attention to you and checking your blog on a regular basis. One day, one of them will link to something interesting you posted and you'll wake up in the morning to a Sitemeter-Gone-Wild. It's fun! Give it a try. And there is no gimmick involved so the effect will be lasting.

Tomorrow: Final Thoughts!

ConvergeSouth - First Impressions
ConvergeSouth - Some Pictures
ConvergeSouth - International Coverage
ConvergeSouth - Building Community
ConvergeSouth - Blog Carnivals
ConvergeSouth - Ethics
ConvergeSouth - Policing the Media
ConvergeSouth - Blogging from the outside
ConvergeSouth - Local Online Alt Media
Related: Teaching Blogging

Check the Technorati Tag: ConvergeSouth

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