Cue The Future

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"I'm living in the future, so the present is my past" -Kayne West

Could answering beat out blogging?

There’s a new “blog” I’ve just discovered and I’m a big fan of it — but you can’t subscribe to it in google reader, it’s only on Quora.

I recently read an answer on Quora to the question, “what have been your most important life lessons?”  The author of this answer echoed a lesson I’d recently learned (namely that we often misread another person’s insecurity as signs they don’t like us, and this harms our ability to deepen relationships). He made his point in a compelling way and also added two ideas that I hadn’t considered. The author was  thoughtful and thought provoking across the board. I was really impressed with Jack Stahl and subscribed to his answers.

Stahl’s answers on quora have been a pleasure to read, his content is fantastic. I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy my must-read/high priority blogs (like A VC, chris dixonVenture Hacks and Both Sides of the Table). Interestingly, I don’t think Stahl has a blog, and even if he did, I’m not sure I would have a found it without Quora, unless he had invested in creating distribution. This got me thinking, maybe, when we look at Quora, we are looking at a pretty effective personal blogging platform.

Generally, personal bloggers are people that want to share ideas, influence public opinion, get feedback on their thoughts, and earn reputation. In order to be a successful personal blogger, you must do two things really well:

  1. Create amazing content that make people better for reading it.
  2. Get that information in front of your target audience (generally, the people who can do something after being empowered by your content).

Quora makes it easier to solve these issues for personal bloggers focused on consumer internet startups. The community there contains some of the most prolific investors, entrepreneurs, and thinkers who have shaped, and are still shaping, the way humans interact with the web. Those people are telling the service what questions they have, what questions they find interesting, and what answers they have to offer. That directly affects those two blogging musts:

  1. The site tells you what topics are worth tackling, by letting you know what thought-leaders and really smart people think are good questions. You are looking to answer questions with high activity and/or high number of followers.
  2. Answered questions get exposed in the feed to people following that topic, leading to distribution and exposure to new people you don’t have to build a relationship with prior to them engaging. Traditional blogging relies on SEO/SEM/Social/etc. (extra work from the author) to get people there.

If Quora is able to repeat their success in attracting the best and brightest in new niche communities (their biggest challenge, but one they have successfully solved once), it could serve as the tool of choice for learning about new issues as well as demonstrating and sharing your expertise. It has some similarities to Twitter or Tumblr on this front, as it could be a great complement to hardcore blogging or complete replacement for lightweight blogging.

Quora lets interesting people focus on creating answers and expressing their opinions, which is all I care about as a reader.

That’s one reason I love Quora, why do you love quora? Answer that question here.

"Presence not Presents"

…is something my dad used to say all the time when trying to corral the dispersed Willis children into giving up their “way to busy for family” lives for a few days and making a communal trek somewhere for a very untraditional Christmas. We were usually pretty successful in making this holiday a fun one, but that’s neither here nor there, since I’m not going to be talking about any of that in this post. It’s just a nice story.

Instead, I want to talk about presence as it pertains to recording who you are online. I’m not talking about branding or building reputation here, but rather presence in the most pure expression: participation. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “Presence is more than just being there.”

Just as a sulky family member at Christmas is worse than an absent one–an online friend who seems uninterested in interacting with you unless it benefits them, worse then someone who abstains from hanging out with you on the interwebs.

I love when people create a hub for you to look for interactions with them. Some Examples:

  • My friend, Andrew Hyde, lists very clearly on his site most of the things he’s working on (Startup Weekend, VC Wear) and provides a good bio and links to his profiles on different web services. If you spend 20 minutes on his site, I guarentee you’ll find something to strike up a chat with him about next time you see him.
  • My friend, Ben Casnocha, has a slightly more “company” version of essentially the same thing. He’s a little more conscious of creating a brand for himself so the site reflects that. At it’s core it’s similar to Andrew’s site, a hub for “all things Ben.” You can find out what he’s thinking about from his blog, find his accounts (twitter, FB, del.icio.us, etc.), even sign up for a newsletter digest he send out (which is very good incidentally).
  • New Friend, Amit Gupta, will probably serve as inspiration for me in building this site. He hosted smaller projects on his domain, instead of a separate domain. Talk about centralization! Of course, once projects hit a certain size, it needs to be spun out, but while it’s a baby idea – why not let it live at home?
  • This site now has tons of information about me. Not sifted, carefully chosen and cleared information – but rather a bevy of information about who I am and what I do. So does my Facebook profile.

So, if real presence is equal to participation — it only makes sense that your online presence should reflect all your participation. I used to think it was a good idea to create a separate corporate web page that can be separated from my personal page and cleaned of any personality so that I can be sure I’m not making the wrong impression, but likely because of that I ended up making no impression at all.

The alternative is, I can build a hub that is open, inviting, and full of possible talking points that may drive interactions. That’s how I’ve decided to go about it this time around.

I’ve created this as a web hub, and while it’s not complete, tonight I am working on building a Facebook Hub using pages. Since I use Facebook so frequently, it seemed logical to have an aggregation of data like events, groups, stories, etc. using one of FB’s most robust tools. So here’s my page, it should stay up to date with community projects I’m working on and events I’m putting on. Fan me on Facebook if you want infrequent updates about this stuff.

I’ll continue to build out both my Facebook page and this website with as much information as possible, until I’m documenting almost all my online participation, as a way of extending my digital hand to you for what might be the start of a beautiful future.

Bring on The Blogging

I recently received a text message from my friend, Wes, that asked me when I was going to get back to blogging. One of the personal projects littering my to-do list was to get a redesign for my personal site so that I could start pointing people there with pride. The last design on this page was something I hacked together in Drupal – and while the basic template I started with was OK, what it became looked like Frankenstein’s monster.

Given some experience around working on a few WordPress sites (SWSF, HHU, WA) and the new job of my friend Marianne, I knew it was time to make the switch. It’s just the best blogging platform I’ve tried (which are: Drupal, MovableType, and Blogger). That was a few months ago, and this weekend, I finally got around to doing it. This new theme is beautiful!

So, I owe a few seconds of thanks. First to Wes for the kick in the pants, then to Marianne for the inspiration, and finally to Derek Punsalan for creating such an awesome theme.

For the blog, I’ll be trying to keep it updated with a good mix of both well thought out and half baked ideas; for most posts – I’ll follow the intention behind Michael Gruen’s “word sushi,” if not the rule.

As for design, I’ve identified a few things I love about this template.

  • LtR navigation. Content on the left, other stuff I’m creating in the middle, and finally things I recommend on the right. The recommendations should be well thought out by me and easy to add to, but additions/changes should be rare as I want to be sure it’s worth recommending. Having to create an image to recommend somethig accomplishes that naturally.
  • Color Seperation – My creations are black and white, the recommend images can be in color – esp. if I didn’t create them.
  • The tagline at the top is a great place for expansion (favorite quotes, personal taglines, etc).
  • The post layout itself is elegant.
    • The small comment bubbles highlight changes or activity without calling too much attention to the fact that my blog isn’t highly trafficked. The titles are clea, the text is comeptitive enough to be able to hold your eye with decent ease (not perfect, but good-enough).

I might end up moving the share this icon to the right side – but it would then be easier to confuse as part of the preceding post, and I don’t love the date placement – but I can’t think of a better place to put it. I’ll also need to fill in or parse down the menu bar contents, that blank space is an odd size. These are small issues in an overall beautiful design. I may begin to add more content to the middle column, as I’ve done with my twitter updates, but I think it’s important to keep them text links to maintain the look of the site.

OK, so I’m happy to show off the site and now I’ve got an easy medium to express some more lengthy thoughts (as opposed to: tumblr, which is to be inspired and to post inspirational or important ‘quick links, cheap shots, bon mots‘ — and twitter, which is for keeping people up to date on my life and my thoughts).

About the Author

Tyler Willis is the Vice President of Business Development at Unified, which builds enterprise marketing technology for brands and agencies.

This blog is about how the future will affect technology, marketing, and the things we care about most. Learn more about Tyler.

Speaking

Tyler is a featured speaker and instructor for The American Marketing Association, and is a popular speaker on topics related to social marketing and how technology is changing our lives.

Recent engagements:
- South by Southwest
- American Marketing Association
- TMP Directional Marketing Client Summit

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Lightweight Update

I write infrequent (quarterly at most), semi-formal updates of what I'm doing and thinking.


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