Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Applicaiton Compatibility

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Who are the Blogging Consultants?

At Bob Bly's Copywriting Blog, Bob asks the question, Are you a blogging consultant? The comments are pretty instructive.

One of the things you have to do if you're an independent consultant is find a way to differentiate your offering. What is it about you that makes you different and, yes, better than all the other consultant's out there?

The comments are a fascinating snapshot of the blogging consultancy world. I really like ElisaC's Work Bees Blog. She's got a blog offering targeted particularly at arts and non-profit orgs. Tom Kane targets law firms. These are consultants who provide targeted business expertise with blogging knowledge.

I'm less in line with the consultants who emphasize platform and design. The sad truth is that good designers are cheap and plentiful. Find one to build your site and move on.

Offering a list of all the great things you can do is also kind of ho-hum. It's important, but not nearly as important as showing a larger understanding of where blogging fits in with the personal and business goals of your client.

A few of the commenters get around to talking about goals. That's something you can't stress enough. Realistic goals and measures of success are what differentiate a fad from a real business initiative. Strategy is the word to watch here. Read Tobys comment, number 7. This is a guy who knows how to lay out his service offering. I can learn something from this. Paul from Radiant Marketing also explains exactly what it is that he does.

Update: I just got an Email from an employee of Bob Bly asking if I want to be added to his vendor directory as a blogging consultant. I think that's way cool.

Friday, March 25, 2005

It's About the RSS!

About a month ago I was talking to a friend of mine about blogs. He works for a medium size company that's well placed to lead its market. His basic question was "why should I care about blogs?"

This week he asked me how his company can set up an RSS feed. This just cements my view that RSS is the killer app of blogging. Without RSS, blogging is still just a toy for niche groups and sub cultures with too much time on their hands. With RSS, it has the potential to rival Email in importance.

And while I'm on the topic, check out Blogging Planet's post on Ten Ideas for RSS Feeds.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What I'm Working On

Just to prove I don't sit around all day talking about blogging and drawing cartoons, here's a glimpse at what I'm up to lately.

I often work with the guys at 3Sharp Consulting. They've done a lot of work on Fabrikam, Microsoft's learning platform for Office development.

Anyway, 3sharp is very into blogging, and they gave me a blog of my own, so I thought I'd post a little bit about some of the stuff I'm doing for them:

How to Create a Custom SQL Notification Services Delivery Channel

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Today I took a 20 minute break from work and took my daughter for a walk around the neighborhood, and I didn't feel the slightest bit bad about it. Of all the promises of independence, being able to take that kind of time when you need it is the best.

They will tell you that independence is about harder work, more pressure, and less certainty. They're telling the truth. What they aren't telling you is that it's also about happiness. Harder work isn't a burden when the product is worthwhile. Pressure isn't bad when the source of the pressure is a goal that's in your power to achieve. Uncertainty can be minimized with attention to detail, planning, and business practices.

The ultimate goal is happiness for you and the people you love. Does that sound like the wrong goal for a business venture? If you're not moving towards that goal, then you're doing something wrong.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Personal Note

In January, I lost my job. I'd like to say it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but honestly, it's a little too early to call that one.

After the shock of unemployment, I started thinking hard about what I do for a living, and how I can do a better job, and not just a better job, but a really amazing job. I also started blogging seriously about work, technology, and the consulting industry. I also started refining my service offerings and looking for ways to market myself more effectively.

Then I got another shock. My father, diagnosed with lung cancer last year, was taken into hospital. I rushed back to Canada to be at his bedside. My father passed away painlessly, surrounded by three generations of offspring, at the age of 79. My father was a successful administrator and later consultant, and was a great inspiration to me.

It's been hard to get back into the swing of things. Dad's death took the bite out of the initial frenzy of (frankly) fear-based activity. I think I've got a better perspective on things now. My first act has been to separate this consulting blog out from my personal blog so I can focus myself a little better.

I'll keep posting my consulting experiences and learnings here. I have skills, but in the world of business I'm a newbie, and that's a humbling thought indeed.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What Makes an Effective Blog?

What makes a blog effective? I've been looking at good blogs in an effort to answer this question, and I've noticed that the blogs I admire tend to have certain characteristics in common.

  • Focus The best blogs have a well defined focus (unlike this one), which they stick to. Look at Beyond Bullets. It's about one thing: better PowerPoint. Now maybe you don't care about giving better PowerPoint. In that case, you're not a potential consumer of this blog.
  • Content Just having a blog isn't enough to make it interesting. Links to other sites are nice, but not enough to make a blog compelling. You need to include valueable content for your readers. Look at Koly Parnell's tech blog. All the content is useful. Some of it is technical content of use to developers. He also includes personal observations and insights gleaned from his experience in the development world. It's the latter that really puts this blog over the top. Technical information is nice, but experience is gold.
  • Conversation Your blog isn't your private podium from which to hold forth. It's a conversation. Not only does this mean you should respond to comments, but that you should highlight good comments in your posts, even if they are critical of you. People may visit for content, but they'll return for conversation. Hugh MacLeod, among others, does this very well.
  • Truth This one's last in the list, but first in importance. I don't mean you should slag your friends and slam your employer, rather that you should strive tobe truthful (if tactful) at all times. Scobel is the king of this. That's how he came to be recognized as an extremely credible source while working for the software company that people love to hate. He doesn't hesitate to praise Microsoft's competition when it's deserved, or to criticise his company when they deserve it.

That's not an exhaustive list, nor do all the points apply to every blog. My blog violates point one all the time. That's fine though, because this blog's about my interests and is targetted at my friends who share those interests. You can bet that when I publish a book, it'll have it's own blog, because that's the right way to promote a book.

I want to emphasize that these opinions are based on observation of the blogs that I admire most. You can probably (maybe) find great blogs that break these rules, but if you do, I'd like to know.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Lesson: Preparation

OK, I'll keep this short and sweet.

I had a meeting the other day. I knew the material, but I didn't bother to prep (because I was busy). I didn't come in with any insights, and I was short a coffee and a lunch.

The result was a rather lackluster meeting.

So the lesson is to do the work and prep for your meetings, especially if, like me, you're not the kind of guy who can do it off the cuff.