Monday, 24 August 2009

Ten important blogs - the top bloggers to have shaped modern blogging

Important blogs|SEO Manchester
Belle De Jour

Arguably, the first British blogger to break out of the virtual world and into the real one. Before the book deal, the television show and the Guardian column, Ms. De Jour entertained and titillated with her experiences as a London call girl. Witty and superbly written (to the point where a UK paper tried to out her as a journalist) and occasionally laugh-out-loud, it's worth a look for those with an interest in both the cultural importance of online copywriting and, um, the subject in hand.

Belle De Jour

Bob Somerby

Founder of the Daily Howler blog, Bob Somerby was one of the first major political writers on the internet. While often criticised for being inaccurate and biased, the Daily Howler showed that it was possible to write about politics and maintain a healthy bounce rate at the same time. Political bloggers such as Guido Fawkes have a lot to thank him for.

Daily Howler

Matt Cutts

As head of Google's Webspam team, Matt Cutts knows things. Secret things. Things that an SEO copywriter would kill for. Sadly, Mr. Cutts isn't known for blurting out algorithm secrets, or indeed, the 16 digit number on the front of the company credit card. Nor should we expect him too. Occasionally though, Cutts lets slip about the latest update or indeed, confirms popular theories surrounding SEO strategy. Every little helps.

Matt Cutts

Comment is Free (The Guardian)

While not a personal blog, The Guardian's Comment Is Free is one of the most influential collection of online musings. The Guardian has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of what a newspaper can achieve online and the launch of CiF showed that news and opinion could peacefully coexist in a virtual world. 700 writers regularly contribute to the CiF section – named after a quote from CP Scott – and, even today, it remains one of the leading sites for online opinion and conjecture.

Comment is Free


Richard Horton – detective constable for the Lancashire Constabulary - is better known as NightJack, the Orwell Prize-winning blogger famous for his emotional insight into the secret world of the police force. He became infamous for his criticisms of police bureaucracy and his honest appraisal of the job – describing one local community as the 'evil poor' being just one controversial opinion. Horton's identity was revealed by a court order earlier this year after a landmark legal battle with The Times newspaper. The blog was deleted and Horton was issued a formal warning by his employers. The implications of this ruling, rather than the blog itself, cements its position in the list.

Perez Hilton

Love or loath the nature of his work, Perez Hilton has made his name reporting on the loves and lives of Hollywood's elite. His first blog,, was famous for its brutal and cut-throat reporting of some of the biggest celebrity scoops. The blog inspired countless imitators and thousands of like-minded sites and Perez is now thought to be one of the most influential people in show business; the blog has been know to launch the careers of his friends and acquaintances. Like Mika.

Perez Hilton

Justin Hall

Widely considered to be the pioneer of the personal blog, Jusin Hall started in 1994. As a student at Swarthmore, Hall began chronicling his daily life and undergraduate experiences. He revealed the most intimate details about his time at university – relationships, holidays and, at one point chronicled the time he obtained an STD from a partner. The origins of internet angst.

Justin Hall

Tom Watson

While he may have resigned his parliamentary seat under a hail of tabloid exclamation marks, Tom Watson will be forever remembered as one of the first politicians to connect to constituents through the power of blogging. In 2004, Watson won the New Statesman New Media Award for his attempts to share politics with the electorate. Politicians from both sides of the aisle have followed in his footsteps.

Tom Watson

Xeni Jardin

As the co-editor of cult site Boing Boing, Xeni is responsible for the proliferation of peculiar things. Back in the days before people realised the internet could be used to broadcast more unusual content – talking Nazi cats juggling melons and the like -this woman was spreading internet memes far and wide. An inspiration to all who'd rather surf B3ta than get any actual work done.

Xeni Jardin

Evan Williams

The father of social media, Williams made blogging accessible to all after creating in 1993. The simple layout and open-to-all approach brought blogging into the public domain. It now averages just over 140 million visitors per day. Williams can currently be found at his latest creation, Twitter.

Evan Williams

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Google Caffeine - What's in a name?

Google Caffeine, the latest update to the monster search engine, was revealed last week. My initial reaction was disappointment.

Google is a company known for innovation. A company famous for providing inspiring and useful products. A company with a reputation for branding these products with clever and star-gazing names. Chrome. Wave. Android.

Caffeine just seems to be selling Google short. This update is billed as a major step forward for the search engine giant and by all accounts, a lot of effort has been put into redefining the way the wee little search spiders operate. It's just a shame the codename - Caffeine - lacks the va-va-voom of the actual product.
A codename should be innovative and awe-inspiring. When I hear a codename, I want to imagine Sean Connery in a Navy uniform, sensually whispering the word into the quivering receiver of a red telephone.

A codename personifies a project. When people don't have any product information to go on, a super-secret moniker needs to be a standard bearer. A word to represent how life-changing this new service will be; a viciously-proactive noun for instance – destroyer, killer, tankmouth.

Nintendo initially opted to name the soggy-sounding Wii, the Revolution. BlackBerry took their inspiration from Dirty Harry's penis-extension of choice.

At its core though, a codeword should be cool. Indeed, companies need to pander to the zealots. No self-respecting kool-aid drinker is going to review a product on Amazon six months pre-release if its name sounds like a new body scrub.

Certainly, a codeword should not float in subjectivity. Caffeine suggests sleepless nights worrying about results pages or bleary-eyed meetings desperately trying to explain to a client why their website has slipped into the SERP abyss.

Caffeine is an ominous title and if Google wanted to scare any SEO copywriter to ever type a keyword surely there are more apocalyptic codewords on offer. Google End Of Days, Google Threat Level Orange or Google They're Coming To Get You Barbara.

I'm genuinely excited about Google Caffeine. I think it will make search much faster and much more efficient. I just wish the team at Google hadn't decided to name their latest update after things in their eyeline during the meeting.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Tabloid tales - paying for online news

From 2010, users will have to pay to read online content featured in titles owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Here are five tabloid tales guaranteed to part you with your pennies.

Disclaimer: These stories are all fake. Possibly. I also take no responsibility for people wearing slogan t-shirts.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Football on the BBC - creating an online experience

Today marks the return of the UK football league and I, like most fans, will be monitoring the action online.

While The Guardian and Sky Sports offer great live feeds from the day's matches, I've found the BBC provides the most complete coverage - not just in regards to news and reports, but in terms of user experience. The Beeb offers a dedicated online section for match days which combines a number of useful features. The end result is a comprehensive and engaging online experience for football fans across the UK.

Media integration

I've always been a fan of the BBC's use of visual media – placing video news on the homepage during major stories, for example. (the death of Michael Jackson being the most recent.)

During match days, the BBC provides a live feed of their television or radio coverage on this mini site.

Today we get radio coverage, although normally Ray Stubbs' mug – on the digital Final Score programme - is available for all to admire online. But we're only celebrating the start of the lower league competition and the BBC doesn't wake up its gameday players for anything less than a Premiership clash. Still, we're left in the capable hands of the Five Live radio team and their expert analysis of every goal and tackle.

There's also a live text feed under the video which combines comments from users and a moderator – more about this later. The BBC introduced this live function during the Beijing Olympics (previously users had to smash F5 to refresh the coverage).

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The BBC duly provides a wealth of background information. Links across the page offer users the chance to read more expert analysis- predictions, club previews and the like. There's a mine of extra info for anyone wanting to know the stories behind the scores. Annoyingly though, these links don't open in a new window and you'll find the live coverage brutally cut short if you venture away from the page.

Elsewhere, an application on the left of the screen allows users to keep up to date with current scores. Handily, these are automatically updated. This tab also gives fans the option to monitor results in other leagues if they maintain an unhealthy interest in the lower divisions or indeed, are exceptionally pessimistic about their team's fortunes this season.

User content

One of the site's greatest facets is the integration of user input.

The BBC 606 message board – for football aficionados across the country - has established itself as one of the most reputable and lively user groups on the interwebs. During match days, comments and opinions from 606 users are regularly posted onto the live feed below the video. It's a great way to actively inspire an audience and produce user-generated content.

Man in black

Of course, the whole package wouldn't be complete without a referee to keep the whole thing in order. Thankfully, Alan Hanson isn't let anywhere near a keyboard.

The afternoon's entertainment is provided by a roving moderator – Caroline Cheese in this instance – who interacts with user comments, reports on developments and generally keeps the whole ship afloat. It's all very entertaining fare and she injects a nice slice of personality into the coverage. Judging by the frequency of her updates, one can only hope that the BBC provide a finger bath of ice water at half time.

Fans can also use Twitter to chat to Ms. Cheese and she duly responds to comments from supporters at the grounds. Like the 606 message board, it's a nice way to keep fans engaged and also allows the BBC to get their mitts on any breaking stories.