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Finding Feeds

Q: How do I find a good feed? A: Cook your own

I was taking a colleague through the process of aggregating and posting today and he asked me how to go about finding good feeds. And it stumped me slightly, because I'd taken it for granted. We chatted about searching on Google and adding the keyword blog, we chatted about blogrolls, and we chatted about services such as Technorati, del.icio.us and Share My OPML's "People like me".

And then it struck me that to really begin to get the benefits, you need to post up things that interest you. You post, you cook your own feed, and you comment, trackback - all that engagement stuff. And sooner or later, people find you. It's a little like dinner parties - serve up good grub, a little schnifter of wine, and some interesting conversation, do it often enough, and soon you get invited back. (Of course there are homophily issues around this - call them echo chambers, cliques, whatever - but as I wrote a while ago in a post on Invisible Colleges, I don't think they're too severe )

So much, then, for finding feeds. Pure serendipity though has it that Suw has been saying some interesting things about blogging and getting it going "behind the firewall" - a subject dear to my heart(!).

Suw picks up Heather Leigh's thoughts on the skill sets of a good blogger. Good bloggers (on Heather's analysis) have:

  • An ability to gauge relevance

  • Strong written communications skills

  • An ability to filter for appropriateness

  • Original opinions or an ability to contribute original thoughts to existing discussions

  • Diplomacy skills

Suw (rightly I think) points out that while these are valuable skills, they're not necessarily going to persuade "corporates" of the value of blogs. Some issues she raises are: buy-in (blogging takes effort); invisible work (why are you reading that feed?); what can you post (without getting fired)?; and prioritisation (which is effectively an amalgam of the last three). All these - at least - says Suw need to be clear for corporates to see the value of these social tools and so treat blogging hireable skill.

I think she's right, but I think there's an needless element of worry about all this. Blogging on the two readings above is seen as a thoughtful, time consuming process. And I think it is, but only sometimes. But how about a step by step, softly softly catch the monkey approach to persuading these oh-so-horrendous "corporates" of the value of blogging (or wikis for that matter)?

Some steps I'd take are:

  • Show a devil-child corporate an RSS reader, run through it (and its alternatives) with them, perhaps seed them some feeds they might be interested in, and see what they think. Is it better than email?

  • What are their questions? What would they like to be able to do? Share what's interesting with interested colleagues? Show them how to post to a linklog/del.icious variant/blog - and run through RSS readers again with the colleagues who are interested in - this time with devil-child on your side

So far, there is only one of Heather's blogging skills required - "the ability to gauge relevance" - and perhaps one she missed, "the ability to share". And I think most of Suw's concerns are addressed. Time taken is arguably the same as filtering through emails, and you're just sharing something with a group that might be of help/interest - ahem, no personal diary frippery here.

It's at this stage, though, that we can start worrying about persuading the devil-child of the value of blogging - not before. And the pitch might be something like this.

Devil-child: "How do I find better feeds?"
Blogger: "Cook your own, and invite some people for dinner."


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I presented on blogging last week at an industry event and provided some more "success factors" for blogging, many of which are external to the blogger. SOme of these are redundant, but here's what I presented:

You have a responsibility for community building and your company values it
Executive sponsorship & a manager that trusts you
Established guidelines
A blogger that is committed to not only post regularly, but also to read other blogs, write comments, track links and respond to people that contact you
A blogger that has something interesting to say
Blogger with strong communications skills.
A PR department that doesn't vet everything you put out there

I think most folks have trouble with the last point, but most people are also under the mistaken impression that blogging is some kind of uber-strategy (which it's not, in my opinion).

Heather Hamilton | Senior Marketing Recruiter
Microsoft Corporation | 425.706.2312
heathham@microsoft.com | http://weblogs.asp.net/heatherleigh

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