Tagged: blogging

Play to your strengths

Top search terms for this blog, largely in order, lightly curated, in haiku form:

Babka, Bialy,
Square car, Linkedin API,
Ferris wheel at night.

Murphy bed, Fisheye
camera, Man bag, Blackboards,

Wine with fried chicken,
Scrabble, Limeduck, Shrubbery,
Pig cake, Map pillows.

If you have the misfortune to land here from a search engine result, do let me know what you were looking for. I apologize in advance because this is surely not it.

New Back Bay FLOR stor offers squares galor, does not bor at opening soir(ee)

Being a blogger customer, I was invited to an exclusive preview opening a new FLOR retail outlet on Clarendon street tonight.  Being a customer blogger, I could not resist the free food and drink. Also, I was hoping that I would cross paths with the estimable @gradontripp of designboston, but the MBTA Orange Line conspired against us.

I’ve been a fan of FLOR for some time and I’ve deployed the half-meter modular carpet squares both at home and at the office.  One of the difficulties with FLOR is the overwhelming number of choices in colors, patters, textures and materials (some FLOR tiles are wool, others are recycled and recyclable vinyl), so having a retail location where you can see and touch the stuff in person is a good idea.  It’s such a good idea, this is FLOR’s 11th retail location.

The store (I keep wanting to call it a “STOR”) has three levels and tons of small and full-sized sample squares. One could still get pretty lost in the choices, but they also have some full-sized “rugs” of tiles on the floor and walls to give you ideas.  I love how they have the tiles “spilling” out into the street.  We’ll see how many seasons of Boston weather that idea can handle. Check it out when you can – the store’s official opening to the public is set for May 10.

One more thing I like about FLOR is their blog.  Sure, it’s a corporate organ designed to sell more FLOR, but they do it right.  Not every post is about FLOR, and even those aren’t always all about FLOR.  I visit the blog for design ideas beyond carpeting.  In that respect, the blog is more fun than the store, which is too small and expensive to show much besides FLOR.  I wish more corporate blogs could be so generous and respectful of their visitors.  I bet the investment pays off in spades when customers come back for mor.


Stop me if you've heard this one

It’s bad enough to run out of things to write, but I’m starting to worry that I’ve also run out of things to say.

The other day at work, during a lull, discussion tuned to whale watching.  We started sharing stories of whale watches we’d been on, and I found myself telling my whale watch story and saying, “not in any single year of my college career, maybe not even in all four years, did I witness as much puking as I did on that cruise.”

As my colleagues agreed and started in with their own yarns of technicolor yawns, I thought to myself, hey, that’s not a bad turn of phrase.  Then it hit me like icy ocean spray: I did say that before.  I wrote that before.  It’s in the blog.  Yep.  June, 2009.

I’ve started checking before I tell a story or recount an experience.  My thoughts on the Everything Bagel?  Blogged it.  (“feh“)   Stuck on the TGV? Been there, blogged that. (including the French lyrics to Autumn Leaves)   Trying to join 100 social networks on a bet?  Failed, but blogged it anyway. Four times. (I’ll spare you the details)

Maybe originality isn’t everything.  We return to classic themes and plots.  The themes and threads are what sets one story-teller’s stories apart but also binds them together.  We like remakes and mashups and covers and Jazz standards.  We blog by blogging about a post on some other blog that’s blogging about a blog post.

Or maybe I’ve become that guy who tells the same stories on the same themes again and again.  Like my father.  Only I’ve got written proof that I’ve told them before.  And additionally, quantified proof that I have some weird attachment to terms like “turgid” and “estimable.”  Isn’t search grand?  On the plus side, I can use the blog archive to backstop my flaky memory.  Maybe I could save time by just forwarding links instead of telling stories. But that suggests all my best material is behind me, an idea that no author wants to face.

Maybe it’s not as bad as all that.  As with family members’ stories, the repetition isn’t so repetitive if it’s your first time.  And if anybody but me has read all 600+ entries, that would be scary.

In any case, I’d better get to cranking out some new material before the readers catch up, myself included.

Blogger ripped my scones

As you may have noticed, October was a pretty poor month posting-wise here at limeduck world headquarters.  I was therefore quite excited to see a new inbound link in my dashboard.  I followed it and found another example of an all-too-common blogging phenomenon: grabbing peoples’ photos to illustrate your posts without permission or attribution.

Knitter laid off from bakery Savory Scone Update

Since the post was about being laid off from working at a bakery (and as of this writing, the author is still unemployed), I felt sort of bad dropping a stink bomb in the comments. I can’t stay mad at the unemployed knitting blogger, but I can complain that this practice is widespread in personal and even corporate blogs, and it really must stop.  I often cite Fair Use, but this is not it.  Fair Use is, among other things, publishing a portion of  a copyrighted work to illuminate a discussion or review of that work.  The attribution is clear because you’re discussing that work.

Blogging about how frustrated you are by  your cell phone carrier (a common enough blog topic) does not mean you can just search the net for “frustration” or “cell phone plan” and clip one of the image results for your post.  You’ve got to make an attempt to find out the copyright status of the image and do the right thing.

I’m sure you can find times when I’ve done it wrong (do let me know, I’d like to fix them), but here’s what I try to do these days:

  • Try to use my own work as much as possible
  • Sample others’ works when discussing them, but keep it clear what’s quoted and keep images and media small/short or embedded
  • Use product images when discussing those products
  • Always link the image to the source (source web page, not source image) and attribute with at least <alt> text, preferably caption or nearby copy

Copyright and Fair Use are not quite fully adapted to the internets yet, but I’m trying to hold up my end.  I hope other bloggers will think a little more about their image-acquisition habits.

Food blogger business models and zero calorie cupcakes

Tonight the estimable Ken George, social media powerhouse at WBUR and impresario of Public Radio Kitchen, hosted a food blogger microconference in the lunchroom of the station.  I suppose I was a bit of an impostor, as limeduck is only about 30% about food, but I was witness to and participant in some good discussion with some great people.

The event had four tracks – food blogging 101, food photography, monetizing a food blog, and blogging and the food media.  I had planned to float, but once things got going in the monetization group, I had to stay.  Here are links to some of the blogs of the discussants:

  • Boston Food Mom Examiner
  • Cake and Commerce (I love that name), “one girl’s salt is another girl’s fleur de sel”
  • Carrots N Cake, who believes that “…’bad’ foods can be part of an overall healthy diet.”
  • Cave Cibum (“beware the food”)
  • The Conscious Kitchen, about “cultural, environmental, historical and social aspects of food, and a dedication to ethical consumption.”
  • Curcumari, “…the blog recreates that landscape of color, flavors and aromas through my ongoing conversation with people who produce, make and savor food.”
  • Kosher Camembert, where I not that long ago got some great info about vegetarian chorizo, modestly described as “A want-to-be cook who reads cookbooks like novels.”
  • North Shore Dish, “a guide to noshing north of Boston”
  • Value the Meal, “your online spot for news, analysis, and action on the abuses of global fast food corporations” operated by Corporate Accountability International.
  • I’m missing many more, but too few had cards and I was a lousy note-taker.  My apologies.

Some quick notes on the discussion of monetization of food blogs:

A blog is not a business model. Many at the table were engaging in labors of love and trying to figure out a way to “at least pay for the dinners we eat” or cover hosting costs.  Most did not aspire to make a living blogging and few if any could imagine how that might come to pass.

The primary route to money for a food blogger seems to be advertising, usually from ad networks like Google’s or specialists like BlogHer and FoodBuzz.  Success seemed mixed in this group, and there were issues with the suitability of the ads, especially in blogs with particular geographies or restricted dietary focus.  I have to say, I expect the ad market to get worse, not better as more and more passionate content providers chase fewer and fewer actual buyers, and going door to door to sell local merchants your ad space doesn’t look too good either.

A secondary method that got only a little airtime was the use of affiliate programs like that at Amazon.com to make referral fees on purchases made via clicks on the blog.  This seems to have more potential upside to me, but it still remains to be seen if people in the mood to read reviews or recipes are also in the mood to buy books or gadgets.

Direct selling was also low on the list, as most bloggers want their content widely read and don’t see a lot of potential in subscription revenue.  I think they’d be wise to build a huge readership before trying to charge for anything, but there might be room for some freemium services if the blog is specialized enough or the information is valuable enough.  Those offering real scientifically based nutritional information or recipes geared for various dietary restrictions seem to have the best shot here.

Nobody seemed to think that individual recipes could be sold, but there was some faith (I’m skeptical) that cookbooks could be sold as ebooks or possibly print-on-demand.  I already see a glut of cookbooks and food magazines on top of a huge volume of free recipes online and off coming from the food blogosphere itself, and also from food vendors from farm markets to upscale restaurants.

Even those not seeking riches from food blogging admitted to getting product or perks once in a while from manufacturers or restaurants, but nobody would cop to this being a real motivator, and some felt conflicted about accepting gifts or writing about them while maintaining independence.

In short, I’m not bullish on most food bloggers even covering their costs (I sure don’t, and I run this joint on the cheap to say the least), but I still believe that food blogs can be great marketing vehicles for real food businesses.  It’s a crowded market with little cost to enter or compete, and there’s pressure from mainstream media and larger online players too.  I hope I’m wrong on this, because I’d hate to lose this rich soup of blogs, but in case I’m right, I’d advise food bloggers to find out what besides a blog you have to offer.

2008 reducks

It’s the season of retrospectives and clip shows.  Slow news days mean dipping into the back catalog and disguising it as the Year in Review.  So I present ten of my favorite posts of 2008.  Feel free to vote for one of these or nominate your own in the comments.  From recent to not so recent…

  1. When Frida didn’t meet Lee at SFMoMA – pondering the connections between Lee Miller and Frida Kahlo
  2. Rockport shoe ad bait and ditch – the quest for imaginary shoes
  3. Cheesed off in Davis Square – the quest for the perfect cheese sandwich
  4. San Francisco in six shades of blue– photos from fog city
  5. What wood you say is the future of radio? – the future of public radio
  6. Fried Chicken White Wine Blind Tasting– just what it sounds like
  7. Leaving newspapers on the train: littering or sharing? – pondering litter on the train; this one provoked my favorite comment ever
  8. Improving the board, one tile at a time– maintaining public scrabble sets
  9. A Purim story: the data miner, the demagogue, the marketeer and the synagogue – a cautionary tale
  10. With bagels, everything is nothing– the zen of bagels with unwitting guest star Seth Godin

With somewhere around 250 posts, 2008 has been a banner year for limeduck.  Thanks for reading, and happy new year.

Triple treat at Hotel Commonwealth for the blogfather

I recently helped a friend set up a blog. It’s a bit like turning somebody on to a drug – you know it’s bad for them and it’s going to eat up their life, but it’s already eaten yours, so why not share?  Over time, I’ve been “blogfather” to more than a couple of RSS feeds, some of which are in the duckroll blogroll at right.  Tonight I was rewarded with a wonderful dinner of thanks, and it’s only right that I should blog about it.

L took me to Great Bay in the Hotel Commonwealth, an excellent choice for many reasons, not least that she’s pesco-vegetarian. Great Bay – another awesome Michael Schlow joint – is in a beautiful space with a vaulted ceiling and a central sashimi station with a great lampshade-like canopy floating above it.  I recommend sitting at it if you can.  As is often the case, it was a bit dark for good photos, but I did the best I could with the meager candle.  Also note (excuses, excuses) that Great Bay’s online menu is a season or three behind what was served, so I don’t have all the precise details of ingredients.  I guess you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.

Service was attentive almost to the point of making us nervous, but they split both our soup and salad without complaint, and I’m sure we got more than the usual portion in total.  We started with a nice half bottle of Albariño from Lagar de Cevera, a salad with golden beets and candied pecans and a marvelous butternut squash bisque with perfect little scallops lurking just beneath the oil-dotted surface.

From the raw bar, we had Tasmanian salmon sashimi wrapped around crisp daikon with a topping that looked like tapenade but was actually black bean, rocoto pepper and lotus root for a nice zing.

Next up, two small plates as a main: lobster and shrimp dumplings with ginger soy and crab cake over corn salsa with a squirt of lime.  Despite the engaging and limey presentation, the crab cake was merely good, while the dumplings were more rustic in appearance but exceptionally tasty with a good dose of lobster meat.

Satisfied but not quite full, we walked through the hotel to the other end where we had coffee and superb dark chocolate cake with coffee buttercream at the bar of Eastern Standard.  As if having two great restaurants weren’t reason enough, I also love the Hotel Commonwealth because it hosts the Panopticon Gallery of Photography. Thanks to its hallway location, Panopticon never really closes and so might just be the art venue with the best hours in town.  We were lucky enough to see the new show – it doesn’t officially open until tomorrow with the reception on Friday – called Prohibition: Celebrating the Repeal, Photographs from the Collection of the Boston Public Library.  The show features modern prints of vintage photos from the BPL collection depicting life under prohibition and ties in with the 75th anniversary of repeal coming up on December 5.  In addition, images by Panopticon regulars Bradford Washburn, Karin Rosenthal, John Ponwall and Keith Johnson (among others) were on view.  Don’t miss it.

It seems goofy, but I’m thinking I should take a holiday in my own hometown and stay at the Commonweath.  When the weather gets cold, being able to see great photos and eat great food without going outside sounds pretty good.  Kenmore square has come a long way since I first moved here, that’s for sure.

Help the Cream Team rise to the top of Food 2.0

Into the category of “why didn’t I think if that” falls Food 2.0: Nom Nom Nom, a London event last month wherein food bloggers, food photographers, food journalists & authors, everyday regular cooks, influential bloggers & senior members of leading UK based internet companies met up, mashed up, and made up dishes in an Iron Chef style smackdown. All for a good cause, Action Against Hunger UK.

Until we have food 2.0 here in the states, I urge you all to vote for my transoceanic colleages on team #7, the Cream Team. You know, like Dream Team. I know… Just go with it and vote for them, ok? Need further proof of their creamy excellence? Observe the sketch and the realization of the Tartiflette:

The Plan

And there’s more on their flickr site (Jonno is the only person I know who has more food photos in his phone than I do, and Kai’s food flickr is epic) but you really should vote first… Nom Nom Nom…

Boston Blogs + Unmapped Boston = The Map With Two Backs?

Let me call to your attention two excellent maps that in my humble opinion should make sweet cartographic love and spawn a mashup of some sort. This confluence of maps, blogs and public transportation has got the limeduck quacking loudly.

First up, Boston Blogs’ map of Boston blog by T stop.

Still in beta, this excellent map is simply the MBTA’s official subway (and Silver line) map with a link at each station to blogs tagged with that T stop. It looks like Davis square is the belle of the ball with 25 blogs as of this writing, and my own dear Central has a respectable showing at 15 blogs. The Red line is not surprisingly the bloggiest MBTA line.

My second nominee is Unmapped Boston from Unmapped Cities.

This is a completely new view of the Boston area. It combines major streets, subway routes, and most importantly, a pretty comprehensive list of the squares that define Boston neighborhoods, all while remaining substantially but not literally true to geography. The map is available on paper ($20, get one today, I just did!) and is a beautiful work of design.

Here’s my immodest proposal: Unmapped Boston should hook up with Boston Blogs to create a cartographic listing of Boston area blogs by square, and not just the squares that have T stops. Sure, there’s lots of geotagging going on and you can find blogs by longitude and latitude, but I think I prefer a neighborhood-centric blog geography. It’s not so specific that it sets off privacy alarms, and it lets neighbor blogs self-identify their location to the area that suits them best.

So don’t forget, list your blog at Boston Blogs and check out Unmapped Boston, and if you like them, maybe encourage them to get together sometime for a coffee. No pressure.

Shh – secret blog!

Are we alone? Nobody watching? Good. I want to tell you about a secret blog. (Don’t arch your eyebrow at me, KC, this isn’t about your secret blog) I’ve been working hard at migrating Ipswitch’s Daily Network Monitor Blog from its current Movable Type install to a shiny new WordPress setup. Here’s the old DNM, and here’s your secret preview of the new one. (of course once the cutover is complete, both links will show the new site)

The DNM blog has been a little neglected of late, but we’re getting back on daily posting, and with the new setup, I think it’s going to be a serious SEO force for the main product site. Here are some technical reasons why this is going to be so:

  • Moving the blog from an Ipswitch-owned domain to a hosted domain will give it some separation and make the links from the blog to the company site more valuable
  • Taking advantage of tagging and categorizing makes it easier for bots to understand what the site is about, and also creates more pages for indexing
  • WordPress’ easy architecture will make it possible for us to extend the web visitor tracking system to the blog to better understand the flow of traffic
  • Updating the social bookmarking links – digg, stumbleupon, delicious, reddit, etc. – will help get the site noticed (and it wouldn’t kill you to use them to spread the word about limeduck, either)
  • and most importantly, getting more technical posts and some guest authors will make it more readable and commentable

I have to give lots of credit to the tools and vendors here. You already know that WordPress is excellent, and that I dig the Mandigo theme. What I’ve also discovered is that the folks as BlueHost have an amazingly easy to use system for automatically installing and setting up WordPress on your hosting account, and their tech support people are actually clueful and available.

Well, that’s enough geeking out for now. Look for the new Daily Network Monitor soon, and expect some of the learnings to come back and enhance the limeduck experience, too.