(Last updated: 11-May-2011)
I recently completed a job application that wanted to know what websites I read & pay attention to. Here are some of the websites & web pages I provided:
John Battelle’s Searchblog – The man who wrote the book on Search. His blog on the online industry is continually sharp & thought-provoking. Battelle writes really well. I don’t always agree with what he might be saying but that is a healthy thing.
Wired – Do you ever wish there was a daily newspaper just about tech? This is probably the closest thing to it.
Search Engine Land – It is kind of an unfortunate name. But they have a number of good search marketing writers & Danny Sullivan knows search better than anyone I know of.
Google blogs – There are a lot of these so I’m just going to list them:
- Conversion Room Blog
- Google Website Optimizer Blog
- Google Analytics Blog
- Webmaster Central Blog
- Inside AdWords
- Google Southeast Asia
- Conversion Room Asia-Pacific Blog
- And the Google Analytics YouTube Channel is excellent too – particularly the Web Analytics TV episodes presented by Avinash Kaushik and Nick Mihailovski.
Conversion Rate Experts – the leaders in conversion rate optimisation. Particularly worth paying attention to for their case studies which give useful insight into their conversion optimisation process.
SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog – While some of what SEOmoz says publicly is often couched in caveats e.g. “this may mean”, “this might suggest”, the need for this is partly driven by their highly visible position in the SEO industry & the trouble with stating absolutes. Their blog is essential reading for SEO news & tactics.
NYTimes – US-centric news but it is better than, say, Fox. Their Magazine section occasionally does great long form pieces. The Critics Best Of videos are good too.
- Henry Jenkins’s series on understanding “viral” media
as “spreadable” media. Start with Part One of the Seven Part series.
- [PDF] ‘Measuring The Immeasurable: Visitor
Engagement‘ by Eric Peterson & Jospeh Carrabis was useful in furthering my thinking about measuring engagement online.
- Seth Godin, a leading thinker in marketing, has an excellent blog. But it was his Google Talk that put me on to him. His TED talk on the tribes we lead is also great.
- Making Inbox Zero my approach to email seriously cut the time I spend on email in half & made email seem useful & powerful again instead of something that chewed up my time & drained my energy. The original presentation by Merlin Mann is highly recommended.
Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – Avinash is a Google Analytics Evangelist but he also seems to do things like consulting/speaking on web analytics/writing books on web analytics. He is a guru on web analytics & his blog posts over the years have been critical to educating me about Google Analytics, metrics to ignore & metrics to pay attention to.
I used to be a blogger. I had a LiveJournal to put the details of my day, my thoughts and my life in hypertext somewhere on the web. It coincided like it does for a lot of the emo set with my late teenage and university years. Blogging was cathartic, it was good, it felt vital and necessary and right. It was also new and when you are Raging Against The Machine it is important to have that sense of “they don’t understand it but we do”. So I blogged about the things I hated, the things I loved, I blogged about my day and my dog. I have fond memories of it for a lot of reasons: it felt good to say those things whether I was right to be saying them all not, it got the words down where I could make sense of them as well. And sometimes when it connected you with like-minded people it felt good to be understood.
But like going to Scouts or keeping a hand-written journal, you started to wonder why you did it. Were you too old for this? You were too busy, you couldn’t be bothered. There was no moment where I thought “why is it I blog again?” but over time that’s what it was about. Why was I telling strangers these things? What was I getting out of it? I now find myself probably a couple of years down the track from really having blogged anywhere in any great substance. I don’t feel it anymore although occaisionally I’ll have a strong desire to release some vitirol and write invective but I’ll write a sentence and feel silly.
Blogging is a paradox. In it’s purest form it can often be your inner-most thoughts and deepest secrets you would only talk to a few people about but you will publish it online where 600 million strangers (and 5 people you thought didn’t know about your blog) can read it. But it also makes complete sense – a way to engage people about the issues we really want to talk about. I think I remember coming to a point where I blogged about something and the result wasn’t what I wanted – no passionate debate, no fists in the air… Instead, criticism, stodgy talking heads and cynical one-liners. “Damn”, I thought “Where have all the cool people gone?”
But they hadn’t gone anywhere. I was changing, they were changing, the crisp black and white lines were being replaced by adult shades of gray and I wasn’t studying anymore. I was working for the Man, which gave me some ammunition for a while but it wasn’t the same. Different attempts to find that blogging magic failed to spark, I was answering my own questions as soon as I posed them on the screen or the questions I wanted to ask suffered in the medium of the internet. I needed real people with real thoughts instead of NietscheApprentice666 firing missives from his keyboard somewhere in Long Island. Whenever I read the comments on a YouTube video these days or visit an online gaming forum questing for tech answers, when I get what I was after I hastily beat a return up the stairs and back to the light.
I look at Bebo or myspace and don’t beget their fun; I remember logging onto ICQ and needing to connect. You can look at the current crop of Windows Live Spaces and Blogspots and recognise how important it is to get it out, to enter in those communities. It can often be messy, poorly punctuated and a sad reflection on the brain food the kids of the parcus congregatio get fed these days. But I think I understand.
There are those who still blog because that is their gift, they are still relevant and they are still getting something out of it. My insights are now my own and the answers I want only found some of the time at the end of a Google query. But what interests me is those of us who grew up with a blog or two, how is that going to play out? Will we return to blogging one day when we’re old and waiting for our next pill? What about all our hopes and dreams sitting out there in databases on the Wayback Machine and in Google’s cache? It’s bigger now than it was, what have we unleashed?
I finally got round to listening to the podcast of Jason Kottke (kottke.org) and Heather Armstrong (dooce.com) at SXSW [sxsw.com]. And I’m glad I did, their discussion is an interesting insight into their positions as high-profile bloggers.
But it took me ages to get round to it, the curse of too much good web. It depends how you handle it, I haven’t found a perfect method yet. I have my infamous ‘To Read’ bookmark folder which is meant to capture the overflow, it perennially grows and never gets read. Often links that go in there are dated by the time I get to reading them anyway.
It was recommended to me once that I learn to skim-read really fast and to a certain extent I do that. But the web is brilliant for distractions and deep links that before you realise it you’ve been reading an article three links away from the one you started out reading. But it wasn’t conscious, one link lead to a better link which lead to a better article.
I’m at the point now where if I load up my favourite websites to read, the memory useage of Firefox 1.5 under Windows XP is over 200,000 K. While thats happening Firefox tends to be unstable so online transactions are out of the question and normally running something like streaming will cause a crash. And I find it hard to prune my favourite links, they are all so good. If only I got paid to read them.