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Blogworld Expo Speaker Interview: Dave Taylor


Remember that classic book Jekyll and Hyde? yeah, well, I’m interviewing myself here. You can roll with this, though, right? Sure I can. Great, I knew you’d be good with this. See ya in Vegas in just a week. Yeah, see ya in the mirror, Dave. Bwahahahahahah!

Q: In two sentences, highlight your background and professional experience to date. One bonus sentence: how’d you get started blogging?

Great question, Dave!  I’ve been involved with the Internet since I first logged in to the network back in 1980, while I was a student at UCSD. Back then it was the ARPAnet and only academic institutions and research groups were plugged in. Over the years more and more commercial use trickled in until the floodgates were opened to what we have now.

Along the way, I become very focused on how people communicate with each other via electronic systems, and spent years developing email systems and building email backends, notably the first X400 gateway for Hewlett-Packard and the Elm Mail System that ultimately was the most popular command-line based email app for a few years in the Unix community.

I got into blogging through writing tech books (notably Creating Cool Web Pages, Teach Yourself Unix, and the like). What I found was that readers would constantly email questions to me seeking clarification or help and that I would answer the same question again and again. My first attempt at creating a “knowledge base” was a forum, but, for various reasons, that didn’t work out, so I converted it into a weblog once I’d heard about those. My first blog posts were in May 2003.  It’s worked out pretty well since then. 🙂

Q: How often do you blog? What platform do you use? Why?

I am a blogging junkie, I think. On my Ask Dave Taylor tech support blog, I typically write 2-3 days a week, but during those periods write two or three postings and schedule them out so that there’s a new article every day. I’ve done that for years.

In addition, on my business blog at Intuitive.com I write probably once or twice a week, on average, though I’m in the midst of a long series of iPhone application developer interviews which has given me an atypically frequent schedule.

My third blog, the Attachment Parenting Blog, the posts are completely sporadic. Sometimes I’ll write two posts in a day and other times it’ll languish for a week or two with no activity at all. I’m too busy being a single dad to three [wonderful] children to blog about parenting! 🙂

All of my weblogs are built atop Movable Type, which I’ve used from the beginning. I know and respect WordPress (which is what we use for the Blogworld Expo Blog, by the way) and like Matt, but I started with MT and have stuck with it through the years. And, I might add, been rewarded with a stable platform that’s never failed on me and never (knock on digital wood) been hacked or compromised.

Q: Point us to one or two recent postings on your blog that you think were superb, and tell us a bit about your writing process. How long did it take for you to come up with the topic? How long to write?

Like most prolific bloggers, I am a very fast writer. I’ve written twenty books and been published over a thosuand times in magazines and newspapers, I have a weekly column in the local newspaper and a monthly column in Linux Journal. I can write.  As a result, I rarely spend more than about 15-20 minutes writing and editing a blog post, which is obviously a boon to productivity.  One aspect of this that people don’t tend to talk about, by the way, is the value of learning how to write so that you don’t need to edit yourself. It’s a learnable skill, but takes lots of practice.

In terms of good postings, hmmm… here’s one: Hey DirectTV!  Lying to customers isn’t a good way to drive business! What I like about this posting is that the title’s engaging, the story is interesting, and that there’s a good close. Of course, it’s also interseting that it’s been up a few weeks and the marketing team at DirecTV hasn’t responded, which demonstrates that I’m right: they’re not listening to their customer community.

Another one, off my tech support blog: How do I stop applications launching when I start up my Windows XP PC? Again, a pretty typical reader question, but after writing thousands of Q&A entries, I feel that my style of answering, with screen shots and a simple narrative, makes it very easy for people to follow along and so the site really does help a ton of folk gain control over their electronic chaos of their lives. And that makes me feel like there’s a direct benefit to my blogging efforts above and beyond me just having the proverbial bully pulpit.

Q: How often do you leave comments on other people’s blogs? How do you find their entries in the first place?

I try to leave at least a comment or two on other blogs each day, but admit that I am slacking on that as my workload (esp. regarding Blogworld Expo) has increased. I both read about 200 RSS feeds with Google Reader (which rocks!) and use a couple of very refined tracking patterns with Filtrbox, a more powerful alternative to Google Alerts, etc.

Q: Tell us a bit about your talk at Blogworld Expo. Topic, key points you’ll cover, etc?

Uh oh, I’m supposed to be talking at Blogworld Expo?  Awww jeez, I better start pulling some notes together!  Just kidding, Rick, just kidding. 🙂

I am honored and delighted to have been given a keynote slot and will be opening up the entire conference with a talk on the past, present and future of blogging entitled “How We Got Here: The State of Blogging and Where It’s Heading”, followed on Saturday with a talk on Ten Things You Need to Know About Search Engines and Findability, in which I’ll take my best crack at explaining why search engine optimization (aka SEO) is your friend as a blogger.

Q: How do you recommend new folk best experience a major conference and expo like Blogworld Expo?

I’ve been going to conferences since, well, for a long time.  A really long time. And I have learned that a little bit of planning and scheduling coupled with some flexibility can make your experience quite a bit better. Specifically, I suggest that you print out the conference schedule now and circle just the half-dozen talks that look the best. Leave holes in your schedule, but ask yourself not only “is this a good topic?” but also “is this speaker an expert on this subject too?”

The holes that you’ve left spend hanging out at the lounge, talking in the hallway with other attendees or socializing with those speakers whose sessions you’ve just enjoyed. Be open to tagging along to a presentation with a new friend too – you never know what’ll happen.

Once the main conference is over, don’t just hide in your room and watch TV (or go to the casino and gamble). Find out what parties are going on, find out where people are staying and check out the bars at those venues, and follow some of the speakers on Twitter too (start by following me: @DaveTaylor)

Q: Easy ones: Mac or PC? Ipod or Zune? Iphone or Blackberry?

Dude, you know what I have, why are you asking?  Oh, yeah, we’re blogging this interview. So hard to keep track. Must. Stay. Focused.

Mac and PC. Well, at last count, five Macs, two PCs.  iPod. Again, six iPods?  Seven?  It’s insane. Oh, you know that already. Bwahahahahahaha! And iPhone, of course. Heck, I have tons of free iPhone help on my (our?) blog, I have to own an iPhone.

Dave was interviewed by the handsome, vivacious, charming and extraordinarily modest Dave Taylor.  Yeah, we’re confused too.

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