blogging – Rex Hammock's Sun, 06 May 2018 23:32:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Techmeme receives a love letter from the New York Times Mon, 12 Jul 2010 16:58:41 +0000

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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.

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Why do I blog? So people will meet in the comments, fall in love and get married Sat, 12 Jun 2010 22:10:58 +0000

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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.”

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Things I keep learning about magazines (and much more) by blogging Thu, 27 May 2010 17:47:16 +0000

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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,

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.

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The best thing about blogging Mon, 02 Nov 2009 03:55:55 +0000

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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.

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I’m getting all verklempt: The Nashville Technology Council Awards Wed, 28 Oct 2009 11:53:26 +0000

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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. recap of the awards.

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FTC moves to regulate paid blog endorsements Tue, 06 Oct 2009 00:38:50 +0000

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On July 28, 2005, I blogged this: “I say podcasting won’t officially be mainstream until it has its first payola scandal.”

I thought of that short post (these, days, such a short post would have been relegated to Twitter) when I read this headline on

FTC Cracks Down on Blogger Payola

NEW YORK ( — The Federal Trade Commission is cracking down on blogger payola.

The agency, which protects consumers from fraud or deceptive business practices, voted 4 to 0 to update its rules governing endorsements, and the new guidelines require bloggers to clearly disclose any “material connection” to an advertiser, including payments for an endorsement or free product.

Wasn’t it like about a week or so ago when blogs were the mosquitos of media?

(Disclosure: This blog is one big advertisement for me. I pay myself to endorse those things in which I believe.)

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Remembering Katrina: And thoughts on why Twitter is not a blog shrunk down to “micro-” size Sun, 30 Aug 2009 14:42:46 +0000

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I can’t go through these few days each year without thinking back to 2005 and how I anticipated Katrina approaching the gulf coast leading up to August 29 and then gradually realized the severity of what was taking place. By reviewing my blog posts, I can see that even I did not understand how bad things were until late on the 30th or early on September 1. By September 2, I was doing all I could to point to Nashvillians and web-based efforts responding to the human needs caused by the aftermath of Katrina.

As Katrina is now seared into our consciousness as being one of the worst natural disasters in American history, it is helpful to me to glance through my posts over those few days — as I used this blog more as “a diary” then than perhaps at any other time over the past nine years. I can see how I (and collectively, “we”) went from being concerned to “shocked” at what was taking place.

For example, it was not until September 3, that I wrote a a short post called “Sinking in”:

Perhaps symbolic of the collective delay in responding to Katrina has been how has responded. Universally praised for turning over its front page to tsunami relief almost immediately, did not add a donation link of any size (noted by Jason Kottke) to its front page until three days after the hurricane. Today, six days after, the dominant position of the front page is finally devoted to Katrina relief. This is not a criticism of Amazon’s response, rather a curious observation of how there was an apparent initial disbelief by lots of people that an unprecedented tragedy of historic proportions was unfolding. (I’ll reserve my criticism for Apple, who has hyped the Mighty Mouse in the dominant position all week.)

Having a blog can help me recall how my colleagues and I at Hammock, on September 14, adopted a magazine in New Orleans called Louisiana Cookin’ after learning their staff had been evacuated to places all over the country. Our assistance was more technical and “holding hands” and becoming friends than anything, but it lasted a few issues and I’m happy to see the magazine is still being published today (and I just renewed my subscription).

Because I have a blog, I can review and recall the impact on me and my then 15-year-old son (and photos) of spending a couple of days working in coastal Mississippi with a volunteer group from our church six months after Katrina. And then, almost a year after the storm and aftermath, how he and I travelled to New Orleans to finally meet our new Louisiana Cookin’ friends and join them in celebrating some outstanding young chefs who were (and still are) committed to continue making the region home to some of the most wonderful food in America.

Because I blog, I can look back and read at how that trip both made me realize a part of New Orleans will likely never return, while marveling how another part of it came back to life almost immediately:

While an incomprehensibly broad swath of neighborhoods are still struggling through the very earliest stages of coming back to life, and may never recover fully, — and these range from inner-city to affluent neighborhoods — such a tourist-iconic spot as Jackson Square was stunningly beautiful when I strolled through it Monday. And all those seedy joints on Bourbon Street are still seedy — in a touristy, seedy way.

As I reflect on all of this now, I wonder how much of this blogging would have been relegated to Twitter if Katrina struck today. I guess I would be able to reflect back on what I “tweeted” using FriendFeed*, but having a calendar view or archive of a period of time, or the use of keywords, categories and tags to help me recall and reorganize my impressions — would they be available to me? No.

Using Twitter is something I do with frequency and I believe it and other means of real-time expression can play a vital role during future events like Katrina (or in not-so-important-events as, say, while watching a football game). But tweeting (or what is often called “microblogging”) is not blogging. It’s not even microblogging, now that I think of it. Something called “microblogging” should have archives and tags. It’s something else, completely. And that’s not bad — indeed, it’s good. And as I’ll always admit, I don’t quite get Twitter — but that’s not going to stop me from using it. But the more I use it, but more I realize it’s not just a blog shrunk down to “micro” size.

Sidenote: Here’s a hack to address my concerns with “losing” the chronological context of tweets. As Twitter does have the blog-conventions of RSS and permalinks, you can set up a account and stream all of your tweets into it. You’ll at least have a nice archive of your tweets.

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9 things I’ve learned about magazines from blogging Mon, 03 Aug 2009 03:45:48 +0000

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As people who read this blog know, a regular topic I write about is the magazine industry. That should make sense, as Hammock Inc. publishes magazines for several associations and corporate clients.

For their August issue, the business-to-business magazine Publishing Executive invited me to write a guest column about things I may have learned about magazines from nearly a decade of blogging.

As most of what one reads about magazines and blogs tends to place the two media in adversarial roles, what I wrote for the magazine may surprise you.

Here are nine things I’ve learned about magazines from blogging. The full column, which explains what I mean with each point, can be found on the magazine’s website:

1. Magazines and blogs are made for each other.
2. People in the magazine industry are consistently inarticulate in their attempts to describe the qualities of the magazine format.
3. No one will ever collect
4. The people who say print is dead don’t actually mean print is dead.
5. Successful magazines succeed for three reasons: a passionate niche, they are required reading for that niche, great design.
6. More magazines play a role in a non-publishing business model than in a publishing business model.
7. A digital magazine will never replace a printed magazine.
8. The magazine format can contain content that is “journalism” or it can contain content that’s anything but journalism.
9. Make lists end on a random number other than 10.

Again, some of these won’t make sense without reading the entire column.

Later: By auditioning a link to this column on Twitter, I’ve discovered that some people really like #3, which is a short version of my description of the common-sense observation that a physical magazine is not a digital website, and therefore, the two platforms that share the same brand should be and are different.

3. No one will ever collect OK, here is my suggestion to those in the magazine industry who haven’t figured out how to compare magazines with the Web (see point #2). The magazines we love are not merely things we read and enjoy; they are expressions of who we are. We display them on coffee tables and desks the way people wear designer labels on clothes or purchase one model of car over another. People collect magazines, trade them and display them on decorative racks or in frames hung on the wall. Magazines provide us with mementos of our life’s journey. They allow us to savor our passions and save special moments. The magazines we love are so important to us, they make us feel guilty to consider throwing them away. The Web is a wonderful thing when you want to drink information from a fire hose. But the magazines people love are like bottles of fine wine: Even if you have to wait a little before opening it, there’s something a bit exciting about the anticipation.

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First, I’d like to blame the media and bloggers Wed, 29 Jul 2009 12:19:27 +0000

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In Tennessee, a state senator resigned late yesterday in the final stage in a political scandal scenario that has become such a cliche that I developed a nine-step, fill-in-the-blanks version of it two years ago:

1. Politician _______s.
2. Rumors circulate that politician ________s.
3. Politician denies rumors.
4. Politician caught _____ing.
5. Politician says, “I did not _____, it was a misunderstanding.”
6. Politician blames media and bloggers.
7. Past partners, victims or witnesses show up to prove politician _______s all the time.
8. Politician admits he’s __________ed.
9. Politician apologizes to his family and to those who trusted him, blames it on alcohol and enters rehab.

(Please note: every scandal has its nuance — the nine-steps are merely a “framework” for ridicule and not a scientific formula.)

In this current Tennessee case, the state senator’s resignation came at the end of a boilerplate scandal: “family values lawmaker gets blackmailed by boyfriend of the intern with whom the lawmaker is having an affair.” (I apologize if I got some of the specifics of the scandal wrong in that description, as I make it a practice to tune out all but the beginnings and ends of any “news” related to lawmakers and interns, blackmail or hikes along the Appalachian Trail.)

I mention this resignation only to note how he followed step #6 even after the resignation, but then caught himself in recognition of the irony of blaming “the media and bloggers” in the context of a confessional. From the Nashville Scene, here’s a quote from the resigning senator’s on a radio talk show:

“I think a lot of people express frustration with the changing professionalism of journalism. That is, journalists used to have to verify sources and verify information before they put it out there. I guess with the blogosphere and just more people being engaged and the advent of the Internet, people get on the Internet or the airwaves or whatever and just say whatever, and I think they need to be more cognizant of they way they treated …

At that point, the lawmaker apparently recognized how ironic he was beginning to sound.

One last thing — a prediction.

The next politician who resigns will include “Twitter” in his list of things to blame.

Later: Upon reflection, I’ve decided to suggest to lawmakers they skip trying to keep up all the different web-based channels of expression they should blame and just blame “the media and every damn fool with a computer or an iPhone.”

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The Pushbutton Web Sun, 26 Jul 2009 17:16:56 +0000

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In a high-level tech-philosophic fashion, the ever-thoughtful Anil Dash writes about The Pushbutton Web, and the technology pieces, approaches and standards that must fit into place for “real time” to become actually “real time.”

Quote from Anil:

“Pushbutton is a name for what I believe will be an upgrade for the web, where any site or application can deliver realtime messages to a web-scale audience, using free and open technologies at low cost and without relying on any single company like Twitter or Facebook. The pieces of this platform have just come together to enable a whole set of new features and applications that would have been nearly impossible for an average web developer to build in the past.

I love Anil’s use of the word “pushbutton” as a metaphor for what is taking place. For me, it works so much better than “realtime” or, please no, Web 3.0. It not only implies speed, it also implies “ease” — the speed and ease we are moving towards whereby anyone can express themselves in any number of ways — and in a fashion that flows throughout the web, but within a context of community, conversation and collaboration.

The first time I ever heard the word “pushbutton” used in a way that relates to the web was when the web service (before Google bought it) used the word in describing their service as “pushbutton publishing.”

On June 11, 2003, I wrote this (#5) the following in a post called “reflections on blogging”:

“‘Push-button publishing’ is a great phrase from Jason Shellen of Blogger to describe the technical phenomenon that enables bloggin. I used to call the platform a content management system for user-generated content. I later marveled at the simplicity of weblog platforms like Manila. I am convinced (philosophically, not as an investor, however) that the marriage of simple push-button publishing tools and incredible search technology will be as significant as anything we’ve seen so far in the Internet. I think the marriage of those two streams of development will bring into reality what we were trying to do at

I understand now why it is important that not just one company should control anything as vital as “the pushbutton web” — but I think I started on a journey of comprehending what exactly that means many years ago.

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