Bloggers: an Opportunity to Contribute to the paper.li Community Blog

Bloggers and freelance writers, this is for you! I’m working with paper.li (you know them, right?) and we’re plotting an expansion/development of their community blog. In short, this means:

  • more interviews of interesting members of the paper.li community (similar to what Kelly has done until now)
  • thematic articles (either original content, commentary on stuff published elsewhere, bundles of commented links…) around “curation”, personal online publishing and editing — and where it’s going, basically: how we’re dealing with the wealth of information online (I guess you can see why this is a relevant topic for paper.li)
  • …and I’ll be editing/managing publication.

We already have a few people lined up to conduct interviews of paper.li community members (we’re open to more if it’s the kind of thing you’d love doing) and we are looking for bloggers or other online writers who are interested in writing some articles with us.

Maybe you would just like to do a one-off guest post, or you think you’d like to contribute regularly, because you have lots to say or want to help us assemble, organise and comment the related articles and links we’re collecting.

If you want to be part of this, we want to hear from you! Please use the following form to get in touch.

The form is now closed. If you’d like to get in touch, head over to the Contribute page on the community blog.

A few organisational/context notes to help you understand what we’re doing:

  • we’re aiming to publish about 10 articles a month (so, pretty low amount of publications — we want quality first)
  • published posts will receive a (modest) financial compensation, but this isn’t Demand Media where you can churn out 50 posts a week to make a living out of it — so we assume you also have other motivations to participate (passion, another audience, visibility, intellectual curiosity…)
  • we ask for a week of exclusivity for the content you publish with us — after that, you’re free to republish on your blog or anywhere else
  • posts will of course link back to your blog if you want
  • we’re pretty open editorially (and still defining the borders or our topics), so feel free to submit stuff even if it seems slightly off-topic!

We’re waiting to hear from you, and don’t hesitate to get in touch or use the comments if you have questions or want more information.

Rebirth of the Book Project

If you were reading my blog or hanging out with me in 2006 and 2007, you may remember that I was planning to write a book around teenagers and the internet. It took me some time to realize this was not a money-earning project, that it would be hard for me to find a publisher, and that earning a living was higher on the priority list than writing a book.

A few weeks/months ago (time is a blur) I was approached by a publishing house who wants to publish a book on the “internet and family” topic. The editors thought of me, not knowing about my existing (dormant) book project. We met last week and though this is still very early stages (nothing signed, etc.) we’re both interested in pursuing.

As we were talking about process and next steps, I raised the issue of licencing. Though they have never published anything under a Creative Commons license, the editor had heard of it and said it was worth opening a discussion on the topic with the publisher. This got me thinking (and talking) about various concerns I have about an author contract:

  • what happens if they publish one run of the book and stop there? can I self-publish it on Lulu or Blurb afterwards, or take it to another publisher?
  • can I blog the work-in-progress as I write?
  • what about making an electronic edition available? (the publishing house only does paper so far)
  • can I publish it under a CC licence?
  • what the heck, how about making it available for free on the web?
  • what happens if somebody approaches me saying they want to translate my book? can they self-publish a translation?

Lots of questions, as you can see, that need to be clarified upfront with the publisher and included in the contract — and here is where I’d like your input. I know that many of you reading this blog have experience with writing, publishers, licenses, and all. What would you recommend doing and not doing? What should I pay attention to?

Having a rather progressive stance on certain IP/copyright issues, it would make sense if the terms of my contract and endeavour in the land of dead trees reflected that to some extent. Of course, I’m aware everything might not be possible, but there seems to be an opening to talk about these things with the publisher, so it would be a pity not to take it. Before that, I need to make my mind up about what I’d want — in an ideal world.

I welcome all feedback!

Content Curation: Why I'm Not Your Target Audience

In Paris, I had a sudden flash of insight (during a conversation with somebody, as often). Most services designed to help with content curation don’t immediately appeal to me because I’m not their target audience: I’m too good at using search.

I was trying to figure out why, although I liked the idea behind PearlTrees and SmallRivers (I tried them out both briefly), part of me kept thinking they weren’t really adding anything that we couldn’t already do. Well, maybe not that exactly, but I couldn’t really see the point. For example: “PearlTrees, it’s just bookmarking with pretty visual and social stuff, right?” or “SmallRivers, we already have hyperlinks, don’t we?” — I know this is unfair to both services, and they go beyond that, but somehow, for me, it just didn’t seem worth the effort.

And that’s the key bit: not worth the effort. When I need to find something I’ve seen before, I search for it. I understand how a search engine works (well, way more than your average user, let’s say) and am pretty good at using it. I gave up using bookmarks years ago (today, I barely use delicious anymore — just look at my posting frequency there). I stick things in Evernote and Tumblr because I can search for them easily afterwards. I don’t file my e-mail, or even tag it very well in gmail — I just search when I need a mail. I don’t organize files much on my hard drive either, save for some big drawers like “client xyz”, business, personal, admin — and those are horribly messy.

I search for stuff. And to be honest, now that I’ve discovered Google Web History, I’m not sure what else I could ever ask for. It embodies an old old fantasy of mine: being able to restrict a fulltext search to pages I’ve visited in a certain timeframe. “Damn, where did I put this?” becomes a non-issue when you can use Google search over a subset of the web which contains all the pages you’ve ever loaded up in your browser. (Yeah, privacy issues, certainly.)

What about the social dimension of these curation tools? Well, I’m a blogger. I blog. When I want to share, I put stuff in my blog, or Tumblr. I’m actually starting to like PearlTrees for that, because it is a nice way of collecting and ordering links — but really, I’m not the kind of person who has a lot of patience for that kind of activity. Some people spend time keeping their bookmarks, e-mails, or files in order. I don’t — there are way too many more interesting things for me to spend my time on. So I keep things in a mess, and when I need something out of them, I search.

I think I’m just not a content curator, aside from my low-energy activities like tweeting, tumblring, and blogging.

It doesn’t mean there is no need for content curation, of the live stream or more perennial content like “proper” web pages. But just like some people are bloggers and some aren’t, I think some people are curators and some aren’t.

Promote Comments Plugin Idea

A few days before [LIFT’07](http://liftconference.com), I had dinner with [Bruno Giussani](http://www.lunchoverip.com), who now happens to be one of the lucky people to live in [beautiful Lausanne](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny/sets/1292407/).

Amongst other things, he told of [his frustrations](http://giussani.typepad.com/loip/2006/02/blogging_frustr.html) with current blogging software (he’s using [TypePad](http://typepad.com)) and how [the perfect tool](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2003/10/10/requirements-for-a-perfect-weblog-tool/ “Old post I wrote when I was in the same state of mine.”) didn’t seem to exist. I guess one simple reason this is so is that “perfect” means different things to different people.

I use [WordPress](http://wordpress.org), like it, and generally recommend it around me, because to my mind it’s the most complete and user-friendly platform out there, **and** because the [plugin architecture](http://codex.wordpress.org/Plugin_API) allows for nearly any functionality to be added to it if somebody takes the trouble to code it.

Bruno shared with me one shortcoming of today’s blogging technology that he and [Robert Scoble](http://scobleizer.com) were talking about at LIFT last year (so this is not a “new” idea). Here is a write-up of this idea (with his permission of course), with a few implementation and interface details, in the hope that someone out there will pick it up and write the plugin. (I’ve heard enough people recently asking for plugin ideas to work their mad coding skillz on…)

**Here’s the basic idea:** there are often valuable contributions in the comments of a post, and we would like a way to be able to effortlessly “promote” a comment (or part of it) into the body of a post. This allows the blogger to easily act as an editor for the conversations taking place on his blog.

All this, of course, would have to be nice and ajaxy. Here’s how I could imagine it happening.

First of all, the plugin recognises that the author of the post is logged in, and adds a “promote” link next to each comment, in addition to the “edit” link. If that link is clicked, the comment text is automagically appended to the post content in a blockquote, complete with author name and link to original comment.

If part of the comment is selected when the promote link/button is clicked, then only that excerpt is quoted in the post.

Instead of the dreaded confirmation pop-up, a nice confirmation message should appear alongside the promoted comment in the post body, with an undo link.

From a back-end perspective, the promote link “knows” which post it belongs to (check the ID of the comment <div> it’s in). It shouldn’t be very difficult to grab author name, author url, comment permalink, format them all nicely (blockquotes, credit, microformats), edit the post, and add it to the end of the content with some introductory text (like “promoted comment”) and an “edited” stamp with time/date of promotion.

Possible problems:

– if part of a comment is selected and the wrong “promote” link is clicked, what behaviour would be expected? Probably an error message of some sort, or even better (but probably trickier to implement), a choice: promote the whole post (based on link clicked) or the excerpt (based on selection)?
– should promoted comments really be added into the post content, or stored as post meta data?

Taking this a step futher: wouldn’t it be nice to let the blogger introduce the promoted comment, or write a few lines after it? In this case, pressing the promote button/link would bring up a pop-up where more text can be added, with the option of displaying it before or after the quoted text.

And even another step futher (but I’m not sure it’s an interesting one): how about allowing the blogger to make a new post out of the promoted comment, instead of just appending it to the current post? Would this be interesting?

Additional thoughts on this basic idea are welcome (Bruno, let me know if I forgot something, it’s been a while since our conversation). If you’re a plugin author and you feel upto it, go for it (just make sure you give Bruno credit for the idea). I’ll be happy to try it out.

Wild Videocast of Robert Scoble Interview

I was having a post-LIFT chat with Marc-Olivier in the lounge yesterday when [David](http://davsad.blogspot.com/) came up, stole him from me and started talking about getting Robert to do a podcast with them for a blog they were going to open. I offered to introduce them to him.

I was going to take a couple of [photographs](http://flickr.com/photos/bunny) but as they started, I decided for video instead. Think of it as a “making of” videocast of their podcast. (I say “wild” not because [Robert went wild on the video](http://scobleizer.wordpress.com/2006/02/04/going-skiing-today/ “Check out some comments about people photographing you when you’re partying!”) but because it wasn’t planned, staged, or whatever. Vidéocasting sauvage would be how I’d put it in French.

5-minute videocast with Robert (partial)

Robert Scoble podcast (5 mins) by Steph

My initial intention was to upload it straight away. I like the immediateness you can get with the web. (If moblogging wasn’t so bloody expensive I’d be moblogging away…) David actually asked me to hold off publishing the video and cut out some bits of it or put their audio on it, because they wanted to edit some of the audio (English mistakes in the questions, but IMHO, who cares?) I said I preferred to publish what I had recorded “as is”, mistakes, goofs, and all — it was OK with Robert.

I’m a bit embarrassed by the situation, to be honest. My video is on [DailyMotion](http://www.dailymotion.com/Steph/) under a CC-by-sa-nc license, so they can put their audio on top if they like, whatever. I don’t really like having to refrain from publishing something, but on the other hand I am very much aware that if you appear on a video or a photograph, you have a right to control publication of it. I think what bothered me was the argument of “exclusivity”. My videocast is only about a third of the interview, anyway.

What would you have done? Should I have refrained from posting this until they had their version up?

I will of course be posting the link to their version(s) here as soon as I get it.