Techmeme receives a love letter from the New York Times

I’ve tried many times over the years to kick my habit of checking in numerous times a day to see what’s on Techmeme. I’ve always failed.

Because I was an early fan of Gabe Rivera and his approach to aggregating and ranking news (and rumors) that are trending on the corner of the web where I hang out, I’ve seen a long parade of startups and giant companies launch things that were going to be techmeme-killers. Of course, that means none of the techmeme-killers did the -kill thing.

Today, the New York Times has a feature on Techmeme (with cameo appearances by the other “meme” sites from Gabe that follow politics, entertainment, baseball and media news).

It’s one of those kinds of stories I sometimes jokingly refer to on this blog and on Twitter as “love letters.” It is a glowing piece — about as glowing as Gabe’s face is from the reflection of his computer monitor’s screen in the photo accompanying it.

I could point out some of the downsides of Techmeme, for example, the way some people seem to write “for it” — so that certain voices are systematically (or, algorithmically) seem to have too much influence on what is news. As I’ve talked with Gabe about this on several occasions, I know he’s committed to finding ways — including human intervention — to address the games people play to influence his algorithms.

But my point in blogging about this is not to say, “yeah, but.” My point is to note that this is the kind of technology “start-up” story I trust in the New York Times.

It is NOT one of those kind of NYT stories that appears about a company you’ve never heard of, that hasn’t yet developed a product — but just happens to be an idea from some notable people who have had previous success (and access to New York Times writers) — are useless. Pre-launch coverage in the NYT is often the worst thing that can happen to a startup. Early failures (the kind any startup must face) are  better addressed in obscurity, I believe.

Gabe has been working on Techmeme, et al. (Indeed, his political site, Memeorandum, was launched before Techmeme) for what seems to be like forever — at least six years that I can recall.

I’m sure he’s turned down lots of offers from big companies who would have totally screwed up what he and two others are capable of doing (and, for most of those years, just him).

He has stayed independent and built what I feel certain is a very profitable business by doing it his way — including low overhead.

I like that. And I like Gabe.

Oh, and I like that when something I write makes it to Techmeme, it drives more traffic to this blog than anything else I do. (But I still don’t write about stuff “just because it’s on Techmeme.”)

Congratulations, Gabe. Well deserved.

Why do I blog? So people will meet in the comments, fall in love and get married

A few years ago, when a couple told me they first met one-another through comments they posted on this blog, I was dumbfounded for two reasons: 1. Because this is more a “personal” blog than a “topical” blog, the “community of commenters” tends to be small and tightly focused. 2. As far as I know, that was the first time I’ve played even a minor role in introducing a future couple — I’d never even set up a blind date.

I thought their chance meeting was very wonderful, but no way did I think any such commenter match-making could ever be repeated.

So, when I was informed recently by another couple, now engaged, that they first discovered one-another through comments on this blog, I was even more flabergasted. What are the odds?

But perhaps there is some logic. While there’s not a lot of commenting on this blog, what does take place is civil and respectful of one-another. Perhaps because “Nashville” is a recurring focus, there is a sense of “place” that comes with it (although the engaged couple aren’t both from Nashville).

For whatever reason of fate or logic, I’m glad to say that “match-making” is a now officially one of many reasons why I blog.

And I’ve decided that I should suggest it’s a reason why more people should comment here (and, okay, on other blogs), as well. But only if you feel passionate about the topic of the post. I imagine it’s more a matter of two people discovering they share an interest than the mere fact they’ve crossed paths here.

And with my heartfelt best wishes, I’ll warn the second couple (and any others) what I warned the first couple, who, I’m glad to report, are still happily married (and about the most perfect couple you’ll ever meet): Please don’t blame me if things don’t work out. “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

Things I keep learning about magazines (and much more) by blogging

magnet 2010 logo

If you’re attending,
my session is next Wednesday.

Next Wednesday, I’m speaking in Toronto at MagNet, the annual conference jointly produced by a several organizations related to the magazine industry in Canada. (I wonder why such groups in the U.S. can’t coordinate their events like that?)

In a courageous unwitting mysterious inspired move by the organizers, I’ve been given 90 minutes to lead a session on “9 things I’ve learned about magazines by blogging.” The session grew out of a guest column I wrote last year for the industry magazine Publishing Executive and a follow-up interview with the UK marketing industry consultancy and media firm, econsultancy.com.

I’ve been looking forward to this presentation for several months because I think it’s a great honor (and fun) to be able to tell the story of what one learns by diving into a new medium rather than just “studying it.” Especially, since “studying it” typically means, “hoping it will go away.” And as my style of blogging is based on my personal perception of the internet as “a place” and that this blog is a major part of the way I “exist” and participate with others who share that place, I have never been burdened by figuring out what its “business model” is or what my blogging strategy is.

This blog is me. Maintaining it is a major investment of time (however, not near as much as you’d think), but the return on that investment over the past decade can easily justify that time. So I have been a lucky blogger: I had the luxury of several years of blogging without thinking of a blog as a “medium” or that I had to justify its existence in the metrics of a classic business medium. And by the time people in the “real world” discovered I blogged and asked me, “How can you spend time doing that?” I was able to answer with examples of specific opportunities it had created, complete with dollar signs attached.

In preparing for next week, I have scanned through dozens of past magazine-related posts on this blog — as well as re-reading those two items that led to the invitation to speak next week.

And, as with the final episode of Lost, I’ve decided those things I’ve learned over the years are less about specific “answers,” but rather are about the big things: relationships, curiosity, community, collaboration and how much better it is not knowing how it all ends.

The best thing about blogging

I’ve been so jammed with projects the past few days (yes, even through the weekend), I haven’t done my usual ego roundup checks (don’t tell me you don’t have a Google alert set up for your name). So I’ve been remiss in not saying a public thank you for the kind things Kate O’Neill and Dave Delaney said on their blogs last Wednesday.

And since I’m shamelessly pointing to people who have said nice things related to me, I’ll point also to a recent post “My buddy Dave,” Dave Winer, wrote. (To my geek-free friends reading this on Facebook, even if you’ve never heard of Dave, you have come in contact with many things he’s pioneered.)

No doubt: the best thing about blogging for me has been the friendships I’ve made through it.

Everything else is secondary.

I’m getting all verklempt: The Nashville Technology Council Awards

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Nashville Technology Award | Social Media / Blogging

This post, in what I’d say if I were wearing my editor’s cap, “buries the lede.”

But hey, this is my blog and rambling before getting to the point is part of what I do and who I am.
Last night, I attended an impressive event at Nashville’s Schemerhorn Symphony Center. (Frankly, any event in the Schemerhorn is going to be impressive — what an incredible building.) The event was an inaugural awards gala hosted by the Nashville Technology Council, an affiliate organization of the Nashville area Chamber of Commerce whose stated purpose is “to help the Middle Tennessee technology community succeed.”

I’ll admit that, despite Hammock Inc. being a member of the organization since its inception, I’ve thought — as it should be — it has been primarily focused on what has traditionally been considered “the technology industry” in Nashville. What is that? Well visit this “Techville” map and you’ll get a sense of the companies that employ 25,000 individuals in tech-related jobs. Much of this industry is the type of work that serves the needs of Nashville’s better known industries and institutions: Information Technology services related to healthcare, education, music, publishing, automotive and traditional corporate technology and information-management and infrastructure needs.

As an individual, I’ve never really thought of myself as being a technology-industry person. Certainly, I’ve always adopted technology early for running businesses (bleeding edge, as they call it) and for creating the types of media Hammock is known for — not just magazines, as we were developing what was then called “interactive multimedia” for clients like Northern Telecom in the late 80s, for example — which is even before Hammock Inc. go started.

I’ve also, as an accidental geek and aggressive user of technology, identified more with those “outside” the tech mainstream: the open-source, start-up, indie developer, blogger, disintermediating, disruptive, free-lance, BarCamp, “unconference” digital community which tends not to think of itself as being defined by traditional geographic boundaries (unless one lives within 30 miles of San Jose).

In the past few years, the Nashville Technology Council has made a concerted effort to reach out more to this “other technology community” in the Nashville area. It has supported — without trying to take over — a wide array of tech-related grassroots efforts (i.e. Barcamps) and recently helped launch the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, for example. But other, behind the scenes efforts by people like Tod Fetherling, a veteran of tech startups who is now CEO of the council, are helping broaden the mission of the organization.

Therefore, I was happy to see that along with big corporate type awards like CIO of the Year and Technology Organization of the Year (both won by HCA) and “Green” innovator of the year (Nissan USA), among the ten awards, there were categories for students (won by Hank Carter, a student at Belmont University) and startups (won by CredenceHealth) and, interestingly, for a blogger/social media person.

And, more interestingly still, the recipient was me. (Two friends, Kate O’Neill of [meta] marketer and Dave Delaney, social media wrangler at Griffin Technology and creator of such things as Geek Breakfast were also finalists and either should have won.)

I feel incredibly honored to win. But more than a little surprised.

First (as I said on Twitter last night), for me, winning an award for blogging is like winning an award for brushing my teeth — it’s just something I do. I’ve never even thought of blogging as writing. (Which is probably obvious.) Unlike when I write, there’s little “crafting” of what I share here. Elsewhere, I write columns that go through a dozen edited versions before being printed or released. But here, it’s completely extemporaneous and improvisational. This is about as me as it gets. So that makes “winning an award” for what I do here and on Twitter and elsewhere very surprising and appreciated.

Coolest “trophy” ever.
Second, and most importantly, this is a personal blog. Yes, sometimes I write about business and technology, but I don’t have a niche other than the niche of stuff interesting to me. Such an editorial focus is one I would never recommend to a client — ever. Had I picked an editorial focus when starting this blog, it would have a better name and, likely, it would be long-gone by now, as I doubt I would still have something to say about one topic after ten years.
This blog, in other words, is more like a columnist’s blog than a reporter’s blog. The only niche it serves are those people who may be interested in my random observations. (i.e., 10-12 people). Only some of those observations are related to Nashville. And only some of them are about technology.

So, therefore, I would think I’d be the last blogger/social media person to win an award from the Nashville Technology Council.

So I’m really surprised and extremely appreciative.

And I’m also really blown away, as the “trophy” is a personalized electric guitar from a Nashville-based “technology” company: Gibson. (Photos to come.)

See also:

•A great Flickr set from the ceremony via Miiacom.
VentureNashville.com recap of the awards.