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November 2010

What Motivates You?

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Earlier this week, I posed the question, “Where are the Remarkable Bloggers?” and it’s been nice to see some readers replying. For those who haven’t yet, I hope that post helped to inspire you to examine what you’re doing as a blogger and how you can move from “just” a blog to something much more. Blog posts (and comments) can definitely be inspirational!

Motivation makes your ideas grow.

But inspiration and motivation aren’t the same thing. I’m inspired all the time, but it takes something more than inspiration to actually motivate me to do something.

Inspiration makes you say, “I want to…” or even “I’m going to…” but motivation makes you actually do those things. We all need the spark of inspiration, but that spark will die without motivation. I would definitely argue that you can’t have motivation without inspiration, but few people understand that inspiration also depends on motivation if you actually want to move forward.

I’d like to talk to you a little about what motivates me most, and then turn over the floor to you. So get your fingers ready to leave a comment about your personal motivation.

My Motivation

Today, someone called me a failure.

I’ve felt like a failure many times. I think we all have, and that’s not limited to bloggers. I tweeted about it, for two reasons: 1) It hurt to hear that, regardless of whether or not I believe it and 2) I fires me up to want to prove the person wrong.

As is usually the case with emotional tweeting, I got some responses, including one from Andy Hayes (@andrewghayes), who I’m quickly learning is one of the most supportive people on Twitter and possibly in the whole world.

@allison_boyer: When people call me a failure, it just makes me realize I’m not.

@andrewghayes: eww! who said that? 🙁

@allison_boyer: Someone who I will prove wrong, one step forward at a time!

@andrewghayes: you dont have anything to prove to them.

You know what? He’s right. I was being motivated by an extremely negative comment, from someone I consider a friend, and turning it into more negativity. Ha! I’m going to prove you wrong!

But I don’t have to prove him wrong. I could work and work and work and at the end of the day, what I do may never be good enough for this person to consider me anything but a failure. Or if not him, someone else might call me a failure. I can’t control others’ reaction to me.

So what motivates me is not the negativity of wanting to prove someone wrong. What I’m allowing to motivate me is the drive to be better for myself. Someone thinks I’m a failure, and I may never be able to convince him that I’m not, but I can use that as motivation to be better than I am right now, to take steps forward, to always reach for success, whether I can prove it to him or not. And more than that, I can surround myself with people who cheer me on, rather than break me down.

So what motivates me is the need to be better, and the reminder that it isn’t ok to stand still. What motivates me is not the need to do more and more and more and more so much that I can’t slow down, but to be better at the things I do choose to do. What motivates me is people like Andy Hayes and all the other wonderful supporters I have on Twitter and otherwise, telling me that they believe in what I’m doing.

Your turn – what motivates you?

Keeping Your Veterans Happy

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Every community has veteran members – those who have been around since the very beginning. Your veterans are often the backbone of the community. They were there through the rough times, when you were just getting started, and they’ll often be some of your biggest supporters, even when others are disgruntled. A good group of veteran community members can actually be the biggest asset to your community. They’ll answer questions, help newbies, and promote your site.

But sometimes, veteran members lose their sh*t. I’ve seen it happen. You’ve seen it happen. Occasionally, someone blows up out of anger or frustration, and when it’s a veteran member, you’re in a pickle.

“The most challenging situations I deal with are not spammers. They’re not new people. The most challenging situation I deal with is when a veteran member loses it.” – Patrick O’Keefe

At BlogWorld 2010, Patrick O’Keefe, Chris Garrett, Lara Kulpa, and moderator Jeremy Wright presented “Building An Irresistible Private Membership Community,” and one of the topics they discussed was the problem of the veteran member who goes rogue.

There are two things to consider when dealing with this type of situation:

  1. You need to deal with all members equally and fairly.
  2. You don’t want to offend your biggest fans.

The first consideration is extremely important if you want your community to grow. Whether you have a paid membership community or a free community, if you allow certain members to break community rules with no consequences, other members won’t have a lot of faith in the community as a whole. It’s like when we were kids and a sibling got away with doing something bad but we got punished. It makes your community members feel like there’s a top-level clique that they aren’t a part of…and no one likes feeling like they aren’t cool enough to be included in someone’s little circle.

Applying the rules fairly includes ensuring that you are following the rules along with anyone else. Chris said something spot-on, in my opinion, regarding application of rules: “A key thing is to lead from the front.” If you have a no-cursing comment policy, don’t start dropping the f-bomb every two words. If you have a no-self-promotion policy on your forums, don’t create a thread specifically to pimp out your new ebook. The rules of your community apply to everyone, including you.

The second point though? Veteran members feel a sense of entitlement, and although it can get out hand, some of those feelings are justified. At the end of the day, they are the people who helped you build your community. They feel almost as possessive of the community as you do. Often, they’re just trying to protect what they think they have, whether that means rebelling against a new policy/feature or going off on a member they consider to be undesirable. Very rarely does a veteran member do something that is malicious, in my opinion.

So, when dealing with a rogue veteran, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Give them the benefit of the doubt. Allow your members to explain themselves and voice concerns to you privately before some kind of public ban or smack-down.
  • Approach them in an understanding way to avoid them feeling like they need to be on the defense. You want to be on their side!
  • Wait before you reply when the situation is emotional. Write your comment, email, etc. but wait an hour or two before you send it. Sometimes, when we have a moment to calm down, we realize that our emotions were running high. If you send an attacking message because you’re emotional, you may regret it later.
  • Listen! Veteran members aren’t stupid, and if they’re upset about something, there’s a good chance that they represent how others are feeling as well. One vocally upset member doesn’t justify suddenly changing how things are done with your community, but try to listen to your members’ concerns and address them.

When you do have to deal with a situation where a member isn’t following your rules, make sure you document the situation carefully. Take screenshots, save messages, and otherwise ensure that you have proof that someone was breaking your community rules. That way, if comments/posts get edited, deleted, or otherwise changed, you have a back-up of what really happened.

Thanks to Patrick, Chris, Lara, and Jeremy for a great BlogWorld panel!

Where are the Remarkable Bloggers?

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Many of us started blogs to get out of the rat race, but I’m noticing more and more that there’s a blogging rat race all of it’s own. We fall onto this treadmill of needing to post, post, post, post. And it goes beyond writing posts. We fill our hours to the brim with answering emails, tweaking site design, replying to comments, reading posts from other bloggers in our niches, writing guest posts or editing guests post that people have submitted for our own blogs, and on and on and on and on.

But what are you doing, right now, that is truly remarkable?

Yesterday, Nathan Hangen tweeted something that made me extremely sad.

I’m desperate from something new, innovating, or fresh – what’s the most amazing piece of work you’ve seen lately?

Why did it make me sad? Because I honestly couldn’t think of anything to recommend to him off the top of my head. I know people who are running awesome blogs that I enjoy reading, but that’s part of the blogger rat race. I know people who are interesting on Twitter, but that’s part of the blogger rat race. I know people who have amazing ideas, but…well, you get the picture.

What project are you working on that’s going to change the world?

Perhaps that seems a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be a plan to end world hunger or cure cancer. Your remarkable project could be something that starts much smaller, changing the lives of those around you in your niche. But if you create something remarkable, you will start to see that ripple effect.

And this all could start with an awesome blog post or interesting tweets or great ideas. Even the biggest forest fire starts with a single spark. The problem is, few people expand upon those remarkable sparks. If you’ve ever been a scout, like I was, you know – when you build a campfire, you have to baby those first few smoldering wisps of smoke. You nurture the flames until they grow and even though it gets easy, you can’t stop feeding that fire unless you want it to die.

Are you feeding the fire?

It’s easy to watch top names in any industry release products, create new blogs, start membership sites, and so forth, but you have remarkable ideas too. It might take you a little longer to complete, and it might take a little longer for you to see an outpouring of supporters, but if it’s something that you’re passionate about, something that you truly believe in, it’s worth doing. And worth promoting.

Today, I released a product at After Graduation that I think is remarkable. It isn’t relevant for everyone, but it is for writers. BlogWorld encouraged me to take the spark, that product idea that I was throwing around for over a year now, and develop it into not just a few pages of notes, but a real ebook. And I’m going to fan that fire, growing from this product to make more that help people in the freelance industry.

I’d like to invite you to share your remarkable products, ideas, and sparks. I was so sad at Nathan’s tweet not only because I think there’s a lack of remarkable things happening out there, but also because the things that are remarkable? I don’t know about them or realize people are working on them. And that’s partially my fault. I feel like lately I’ve been needing to slow down a bit and support others, rather than just plowing ahead with my own remarkable projects.

So… leave a comment! Tell me what you’re doing right now or planning in the future. Tell me what makes you remarkable. Tell me what you have for sale or for free that is going to change the world, or at least the lives of those in your niche. Or tell me what you’ve seen out there from other people. Link for me (and other readers) all of your glorious remarkable-ness!

Blekko: New Search Engine Using Slashtag Technology

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Blekko is a new search engine that launched in beta yesterday. The site is designed to eliminate spam search results using proprietary slashtag technology.

What’s a slashtag? According to blekko, it’s a tool to filter search results. Rather than searching the entire web, a slashtag allows you to search just the sites you want searched. There are three types of slashtags that you can search by …

User Generated: These are the slashtags that you and/or other users make. They’re personal takes of what are the best sites on the web for various types of searches. You can invite friends to view yours, or search out what your friends have added.

Built In: These slashtags tell blekko to search a specific type of site, like blogs or news or sites associated with people.

Topic Slashtags: These are slashtags that blekko created to search only the top sites for specific topics. In their beta launch these topic slashtags exist for seven categories (health, colleges, autos, personal finance, lyrics, recipes and hotels). More categories are in the works, but the company selected these seven because they tend to have the highest spam results.

So how did they come up with their results? People. A group of users added and edited URLs for these seven topic categories. Of course, the results are then only as good as the people who created them.

Tell us … is blekko a search engine that you would find useful? If so, how and when would you use it? Do you think it’s an effective way to drive traffic to your own website?

Overheard on #Blogchat: Haters (@EGlue)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic night!

As many of you may already know, in addition to working here at the BlogWorld blog and running my freelance writing blog, I also serve as site manager for Binge Gamer, a video game blog I founded with my best friend a few years ago. The video game community is not…nice. And that’s an understatement. Even if you write a post that is straight news, containing no opinion at all, you’ll likely get called an idiot by someone in the comments, or two+ of the commenters will start attacking one another. That’s just the nature of this niche.

But that’s not every niche. In fact, that’s not most niches. Most communities are inherently positive, so it can feel jarring when you get a negative comment on  your site. I actually feel kind of lucky that one of my first major blog projects taught me to have a thick skin.

One of the participants at this week’s #blogchat spoke a bit about this topic:

@EGlue: Whatever you do, you can’t make everyone happy. If you got a hater or two, you’re probably doing something right.

Easy enough to say, but I also definitely understand why some people get upset when a hater starts leaving comments. We put a lot of work into our blogs, to the point where they feel like our children. If someone doesn’t like our child, that’s anger-inducing…but when someone makes fun of our child? Well, I don’t know about you, but it makes me want to lash out right back.

It pays to remember what @EGlue mentioned – if someone is hating on you for some reason, it’s probably an indication that you’re doing a good job with your blog in general. People may not like a certain post you write or a certain decision you make for your blog, but they feel connected enough that they have to leave a comment. You want your community to feel so invested in your blog that they leave emotional comments when they don’t like someone. If you’re community’s reaction is, “Meh,” that’s probably an indication that you’re not doing a very good job connecting with them.

And remember too, there’s a difference between a hater and a troll. A hater might hate you, but they make valid points or actually have something to say, even though it might come out in a not-so-nice way. A troll, on the other hand, is just trying to piss you off (or piss off another commenter). They don’t actually care about your blog, your community, or even, in many cases, the topic. Haters warrant a response, though do so tactfully. Trolls rarely warrant a response and sometimes even warrant being deleted, depending on their comments and your blog’s policies.

The bottom line? Although negativity often hurts, try to find the constructive criticism in it and remember that just because someone has a different opinion doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong as a blogger. Work on building up that thick skin and keep moving forward.

Overheard on #Blogchat: Conscious Keyword Strategy (@grtaylor2)

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Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night (or Monday morning), I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic night!

Whenever there’s an open mic night at #blogchat, you never know where the conversations will go. I didn’t get to participate myself tonight, but one of the tweets that stood out in the transcript was this one:

@grtaylor2: I go into every post w/ a conscious keyword strategy. Then, I write the content for the audience.

My first instinct is to want to argue. No! Do not write for search engines! You have to write for your readers! What are you doing?!? WRONG!

But in reflecting a bit, I think grtaylor2’s tweet is spot on the money because he used one word: conscious.

Keyword use in blog posts can be downright horrible. I’ve seen posts where not only were keywords stuffed into the text unnaturally, but the overall information in the post just didn’t make sense. If you’re writing for search engines, you’re never going to build a viable blog, unless you can also offer something of value. And because so many people make the mistake of using keywords in a crappy way, I think many bloggers have the natural reaction of wanting to argue anyone who says they write with keyword strategy in mind.

But this approach can make sense. In actuality, if you don’t consider keywords at all, you probably are doing a disservice to readers.

Why?

Because frankly, if certain keywords are popular, that means that people are interested in those topics. That doesn’t mean that you need to stuff your blog posts with keywords to pull in traffic, but if you’re ignoring your readers’ concerns, you’re missing out the opportunity to really help your community.

Check out your stats. What keywords are bringing people to your blog? These are topics where you can expand with more posts. Check out search engine reports. What keywords are popular in your topic area? These are topics you should cover if you haven’t already.

Yes, you should focus on awesome content, but the conscious addition of keywords can also help you reach out to people who don’t yet know about your blog. Good keyword strategy can help you build your community, not just drive up your traffic numbers. Don’t ignore this way of connecting with your readers.

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