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Interview with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker – Part 2

Gina-Trapani-1Today I’m going to continue my interview with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker. Yesterday in Part 1 we talked about how she got into blogging and talked a little about being involved in one of the biggest blog networks going around. Today we turn our attention to Lifehacker itself and how Gina runs and manages it.

You have a number of bloggers working for you at Lifehacker – how do you find them? How to you coordinate/manage them?

I have 3 co-editors at Lifehacker: senior editor Adam Pash, associate editor Rick Broida and our weekend editor, Wendy Boswell. Each of my co-editors also does about 6 posts a day and 1-2 feature articles per week. Our goal is to update the site about 20 times per weekday and a reduced rate on the weekends, and offer at least one original feature article per weekday. That’s not something I could do alone, so thank goodness for my team.

I’ve found my editors in various ways. Adam was an avid reader and prolific commenter, and his knowledgeable and well-written comments got him hired. Wendy and Rick both guest-edited the site for some time before they became permanent editors.

A lot of time and energy goes into coordinating the 4 Lifehacker editors. We do frequent post reviews of each other’s material, keep an internal editorial wiki for our style guides and other documentation, have a weekly chat to brainstorm feature ideas, and keep in constant touch via IM and email.

What are your top 5 Blogging Tools?

1. Google Reader for RSS feeds. (Here’s why I switched from Bloglines)
2. Gmail for handling the daily onslaught of reader email.
3. Google Analytics and Sitemeter for traffic stats. (Here’s how I use Analytics to constantly improve and tweak the site)
4. Firefox along with some key extensions – like AutoCopy
5. AutoHotKey (Windows) and TextExpander (Mack) for entering post markup. (Here’s how to make blog markup easy with AutoHotKey)

Being a developer I’ve also build a few bookmarklets and Greasemonkey scripts that help us generate post types, like roundups, and search the site archives to avoid posting duplicate items.

How do you find post ideas for Lifehacker?

Three places: in the comments of existing Lifehacker posts (our commenters are awesome), in my RSS reader, and in the tips email box. And, of course, just talking and listening to my fellow geeks and friends and family about what’s on their mind.

What tips would you give someone just starting out in blogging if they wanted to build a profitable blog?

First, pick a topic you love, one that you can’t wait to write about every day. If I wasn’t truly obsessed with productivity, I would have never lasted at Lifehacker. Second, center your site on the reader, not yourself. Provide useful, informative, entertaining material that readers will come back to over and over again. Third, measure your success by your readership and the response you get from others, not your Adsense checks. Once you build your audience, the money will follow.

Melbourne Blogger Meetup – Coming Soon

While we’re talking about Australian Bloggers – I thought it was about time that I actually put my money where my mouth is and got together a Melbourne Bloggers Meetup. Alister Cameron and I have been getting our heads together on this and I’ve just signed up as the moderator of the The Melbourne Weblogger Meetup Group at Meetup.com.

This was a previously existing group without a moderator so we thought it worth taking it over instead of starting something new.

So if you’re in Melbourne (or surrounding areas) and are keen to meet up please head over and become a member. Also vote in the poll on meetup times and feel free to suggest a meetup place (preferably in the CBD at a bar or pub we wouldn’t need to book but could just show up to).

We’re looking to hold our first meetup in the coming month.

Looking forward to meeting other Melbourne Bloggers.

More on Top Aussie Blogs

Welcome to readers of Melbourne newspaper, The Age, from today’s article on the Top 100 Australian blogs that I mentioned yesterday (the print version also was accompanied by the Top 10 blogs on the list).

A few readers have asked me whether I’m upset by the final paragraph that reads:

“One blogger, who did not want to be named, told The Age that the top blog, Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger site, was outperformed by a lot of other top Australian blogs in terms of visitor numbers. He said Ms Tsiamis’ methodology would skew the results towards “extremely geeky” blogs, or blogs with an unusually strong overseas readership.”

I’m not disturbed by it at all. I’m not really sure why the blogger wanted anonymity – I mentioned something similar to the reporter myself – but that’s up to them.

When asked about the list and whether I think I’m ‘the most read blog in the country’ I responded by saying that I didn’t really know. While on any given day ProBlogger is read by between 5000 and 15000 unique visitors (that’s been the range over the last month according to my sitemeter stats – my AW stats are higher) and my RSS feed is subscribed to by around 22000 readers I’m never going to claim to be the most visited blog going around. In fact from day to day my other blogs do more traffic than that and I’m sure others are at that type of level too.

A ‘Top blog’ is a pretty difficult thing to define – some would say it’s about traffic, others about incoming links, some might consider it about earnings, others would talk about profile or influence, others might consider how many posts you’ve written, while others would talk about who was ‘first’ and had sustained their blog the longest.

Ultimately – there’s no definitive way to declare any give blog ‘the best’ and to do so when blogs are written on different topics to different audiences is not really fair anyway.

Do I care that I’m listed as #1 on the list?

It’s a nice feeling – it’ll be a nice article to show my parents – it’s always nice to be written about – but in the scheme of things it doesn’t really matter who is at the top of the list. The fact that a list of Australian blogs made it into the paper at all makes me smile – but looking at the numbers of referrals coming in from the online version of the article it’s not that big a deal.

update: Duncan responds to the article here.

Interview with Gina Trapani of Lifehacker – Part 1

Gina-TrapaniToday I have the pleasure of posting the first part of an email interview that I conducted recently with Gina Trapani from one of my favorite blogs – Lifehacker. I’ve divided the interview into two parts because Gina’s put some great ideas into what she’s written and I’d like to give us all the opportunity of digesting it slowly over a couple of days. I hope you enjoy it.

Can you give us a short introduction into who you are and where you blog?

I’m a web programmer and freelance tech writer based in southern California. Primarily I write Lifehacker.com, a weblog about software and productivity which I update several times a day. I also keep a personal “stuff that interests me” tumblelog at Scribbling.net.

My first dead tree book came out in December, which is based on Lifehacker.com. It’s called Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tricks to Turbocharge Your Day, and is available at bookstores and at Amazon.com. More info about the book is available at http://lifehackerbook.com.

How did you get into blogging?

I lived in New York City and worked at an office about 2 miles north of the World Trade Center on September 11th. Like everyone else across the country and around the world, the experience of that day changed me – especially being so close geographically, witnessing the attack as it happened, and losing a family friend who worked in the towers.

Afterwards, reading my co-workers’ and friends’ accounts of that day on their blogs helped me process and deal with what happened more than any mainstream coverage, and they inspired me. That December, in 2001, I began my first personal weblog.

How did you get the gig as a blogger at Lifehacker?

It was luck, great timing, and a hyperactive brain. I had been working for Nick Denton, founder of Lifehacker’s publisher, as a programmer for a couple of years already the day he and I went out to lunch and he mentioned he’d registered the lifehacker.com domain. I think my jaw hit the table in awe of what a great domain name that was, and I started listing all the great stuff he could do on a site named that, right over our Vietnamese food. He asked if I wanted to write it on the spot. Even though I’d never written anything professionally, accepting his offer was a no-brainer.

What tips would you give to someone looking to land a job blogging at a blog network?

Start your own blog on the topic you love, and make every effort to make it great. When you apply for a pro blogging job, tell them about your personal blog and point out posts you’re most proud of – that site will be your interview for the position.

Can you tell us a little about what you’re required to do as part of that blog?

On average I write about 6 posts a weekday, usually pointing to interesting productivity-related items around the web, and two feature-length original articles per week. On a daily basis, most of my time is spent researching and writing posts (obviously), answering email, managing my co-editors, brainstorming site improvements, interacting with readers in the comments, and planning new post series and feature articles. I get paid much the way a writer at a magazine gets paid. At magazines, you get paid per word; blog publishers usually pay per post. Feature posts – like magazine feature stories – require the most work and bring in the most traffic, so we get paid a higher rate for them.

Read Part II of this interview with Gina Trapani

Back to Live Blogging – The Month that Was

After a month away I’m happy to say that I’m back home again and am attempting to get back into the swing of blogging here at ProBlogger.

The last month has been an incredible journey of many distinct parts.

Let me attempt some sort of a recap:

16 – 17 March – Melbourne to LA – with a little fear and a lot of excitement V and I packed up and headed for the airport with Xavier. The idea of a 14 hour flight (which turned out to be 17 hours with delays on the tarmac while Qantas searched for 200 missing bags – including mine) with an 8 month old was daunting – but he did remarkably well (we all did).

We were in Beverly Hills while in LA this first time and so my first impression of the USA was Rodeo Drive – not a realistic first impression I know. I only had a morning to get myself adjusted to the time zone before heading up to San Francisco (V, her mum and X stayed in LA for some fun). My missing bag showed up literally 30 seconds before leaving for SF.

18 – 20 March – Elite Retreat - Elite Retreat San Francisco was a blast. I got to meet some long term online friends and learnt a lot from the other speakers. San Francisco as a city was really appealing to me. I only really saw a small part of it (mainly from Taxi’s, in hotels and in restaurants) but the vibe was relaxed (more relaxed than anywhere else we went in the US) and I would really like to get back there for an extended visit.

Elite Retreat

21 – 25 March – Washington DC – after flying back to LA late on the 20th we left bright and early the following morning for Washington DC. While the family saw a lot of DC I only really had a morning of site seeing before needing to get to the conference that I was in town for (Yanik Silver’s Underground Online Seminar). The conference was very different to Elite Retreat. For starters there were 500 in attendance instead of 30 – secondly it was a gathering of internet marketers – thirdly, they had lights and fireworks in the opening ‘ceremony’.

[Read more...]

Top Australian Blogs

One of the questions that I’m asked on a semi-regular basis from Australian friends, journalists and others is for a list of top Australian Blogs. While there have been attempts at such lists in the past and even competitions to find Australia’s ‘best blog’ on numerous occasions they’ve generally been popularity competitions (not that there’s anything wrong with being popular).

Over the last few weeks I’ve had a number of emails from Australian bloggers telling me of a couple of attempts to get a good list of top Australian blogs.

The first was one compiled using Technorati’s rankings list at Craig Harper. His list is in his blog’s sidebar and is going to be updated regularly.

The other list builds on Craig’s one and is compiled by Meg from Dipping into the Blogpond. Meg’s Top 100 takes into account Technorati’s ranking but also Alexa’s global and Australian rankings.

While both lists (and their methodology) can be refined (and Meg’s asking for feedback on hers) what excites me about them is that surfing the list helped me find some great new blogs that I wasn’t previously aware of. I’m also pretty happy to see that featuring prominently in the list is a number of blogs that I’m a daily reader of – bloggers writing about new media like Yaro Starak, Alister Cameron, Duncan Riley, Meg herself, Ben Barren, Trevor Cook, Des Walsh, Shai Coggins and more.

How Google Blogsearch ranks your Posts… In their own words!

The following guest post was submitted by Alister Cameron. Read his blog at Alister Cameron – Blogologist.

I was reading through the Google Blogsearch patent application today. It was filed back in September 2005 and never mentions Blogsearch by name, of course. In reading through all the convoluted legaleze, I discovered what I think are some rather intriguing statements, that give us a tantalizing insight into how the architects of Google’s “secret recipe” think…

Now, this post is probably not going to answer as many questions of yours as it may raise new ones. But the point I want to make here is this: Google determines a quality score for every blog post you write based on more factors that most of us have ever really understood. Indeed, the range of measurements contributing to Google’s quality score applied to your blog posts is nothing short of amazing.

Truthfully, I found myself thinking of Big Brother as I tried to grasp the magnitude of Google’s data-gathering capabilities. You’ll see what I mean as we dig deep into the bowels of this patent application. Along the way, I will consider some ramifications for how you blog and how you approach the marketing of your blog.

We need to dive into the text of the patent application here, specifically a section titled Determining a Quality Score for a Blog Document, starting with a summary of what Google will take into consideration when looking at the “positive indicators” of a blog post (we will not look at the negative indicators today):

[0037] Positive indicators as to the quality of the blog document may be identified (act 620). Such indicators may include a popularity of the blog document, an implied popularity of the blog document, the existence of the blog document in blogrolls, the existence of the blog document in a high quality blogroll, tagging of the blog document, references to the blog document by other sources, and a pagerank of the blog document. It will be appreciated that other indicators may also be used.

Each of the “indicators” listed above are now detailed in turn, and it’s here that Google start to be more revealing about their methods and intentions…

A Key Indicator: Feed Readership

[0038] The popularity of the blog document may be a positive indication of the quality of that blog document. A number of news aggregator sites (commonly called “news readers” or “feed readers”) exist where individuals can subscribe to a blog document (through its feed). Such aggregators store information describing how many individuals have subscribed to given blog documents. A blog document having a high number of subscriptions implies a higher quality for the blog document. Also, subscriptions can be validated against “subscriptions spam” (where spammers subscribe to their own blog documents in an attempt to make them “more popular”) by validating unique users who subscribed, or by filtering unique Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of the subscribers.

[Read more...]

What Makes You a ProBlogger?

The following post was submitted by David Wilkinson from Techzi who previously wrote a post here titled How to Drive Traffic to Your Blog – The Advice of a 12 Year Old.

Something that alot of people have asked me these past few days is “David, what makes you a ProBlogger?” and truth be told, I’m not entirely sure. What does make someone a ProBlogger? Is it the fact that somebody blogs for another person, getting paid per post? Is it someone who blogs alongside others, sharing the revenue between them? Is it somebody who maintains their own blog, making an partial, or substantial income from their blogging activities?

Heck… In my opinion, it’s all of them! So how can you become a ProBlogger? Well, contrary to popular belief, it’s actually very, very simple, and I’m going to do my best to show you exactly how to do so yourself, and start churning out a profit within the shortest amount of time possible. Why? A commonly known factor here on the net is “Give, and you will get.” In other words, helping others can often hold a valuable return, much more than what you originally gave, or the time you spent on something.

[Read more...]

Code of Conduct – Your Say

One of the stories that’s been appearing throughout the blogosphere this past couple of weeks is the ‘Code of Conduct’ discussion that was started by Tim O’Reilly.

As I’ve been traveling (we’re heading home tonight) I’ve not been in a position to read the full range of discussions that took place as a result of his post – so to help me catch up – I’d be interested to hear readers thoughts on it.

  • Do you think bloggers need a code of conduct?
  • What do you think of Tim’s draft one?
  • What would you add or subtract?

My personal thoughts (and I’ve given this very little thought): The idea of a code of conduct don’t sit well with me. While I find some of what Tim suggests resonates with my own personal approach to blogging (not all of it) one of the things I love about blogging the most is the diversity of approaches that people bring to it.

While I wish and hope for a blogosphere that is constructive, respectful and positive in nature – I don’t think any centralized list of do’s and don’ts will really fix anything.

Ultimately these types of decisions on how bloggers will or won’t behave need to come from individual bloggers after examining their own personal values, style and goals.

But then again – that’s just me. What do you think?