In my perpetual state of catching up, here are some interesting (to me) items on webby topics.
On Content Matters, Barry Graubert has given the recently announced Google Spreadsheet a test run, so if you want to see how it compares with Excel, have a look. Barry has also looked at WikiCalc, a similar application. I’m supposed to be having a look at it via a colleague, Declan Butler, but have not had a minute all week. I like the idea of being able to share information (which is why I am sort of looking forward to Writely, the document "group edit" service that keeps being promised. Only sort of, though!). However, Declan and Barry both say that Google Spreadsheet isn’t a business replacement for Excel — apparently GS doesn’t let you analyse the data in the columns very much.
I don’t know if anyone has tried out a visualisation tool for their blog — I’ve seen a few of them about. The idea is that you get a map, in some attractive visual form, of your blog and all the other blogs that you link to or that link to you. I’ve had a try of a couple of applications and haven’t been able to get them to work. But if you are interested, have a look at Barry’s post comparing a couple of these "maps" explaining why they are useful (or not), with examples so you can see whether you want to go for a tree-like picture or a cluster of balloons (or neither if you’re like me and can’t get them to work).
John Battelle, guru of search, has a wry post about Google not returning searches for Amazon (Amazon recently switched from Google as its search engine). I’ve had similar experiences with MSN when trying to find Google (when first setting up my laptop). I’ve heard the same about Yahoo. None of these giants like to refer to each other — can’t imagine why. China syndrome is not limited to China, clearly. (Content Matters has a post about Sphere, a service that is claimed to "add relevancy to search".)
A very serious issue is Net Neutrality, the bill affecting which is actually making some headway in Congress. Melanie on John Battelle’s blog gives an update as to what’s (not) happening in the Senate(actually now about a week old owing to my tardiness) . And the greatest Internet guru of them all, inventor of the Web, Tim Berners Lee, posts on his own blog about why Net Neutrality is important for innovation, and why the Web should be preserved for the people. Go for it, Tim, you’re a hero and I hope they listen to you.
Liz (M. E.) Strauss at Successful Blog is keeping track of the Net Neutrality issue — but here she asks bloggers this question: "what is the single biggest roadblock that stands between you and the successful blog that you want?" Quite a few answers (and answers to answers) in the comments, as well as links to some related articles. Incidentally, for those on Blogspot (Blogger/Google) who want to customise their templates, Liz posts a link to where you can get free templates. Not tried by me though, so this isn’t a recommendation, just information.
When waxing lyrical about the transforming power of blogging, which I do at the drop of a hat, I always say that blogging goes hand-in-hand with rss. Nobody ever knows what rss is. You don’t have to know in order to use Bloglines or other readers, but it is a stumbling block to explaining blogging to the uninitiated as it is an extra, apparently complicated step. Steve Rubel on Micropersuasion has posted on 35 ways you can use rss today, with links to each. Maybe I’ll try that next time I’m on the stump.
Steve Rubel writes from a marketing perspective, and his blog is the or one of the most popular blogs tracked by Technorati. Here are two interesting thought-pieces by him: Borders are now harder to define, covering social networking, blogs v journalism, and PR v advertising; and Media-mass=journalism 2.0, essentially Steve’s reaction to a Washington Post article about the sweeping changes currently happening in journalism.
Incidentally, getting back to "successful" bloggers, Steve discusses a U. Mass study claiming to identify the traits of said bloggers. Here’s the bottom line: 1. Blogs Take Time and Commitment; 2. Blogs Must Be Part of A Plan; 3. A Blog is a Conversation ; 4. Transparency, Authenticity, and Focus are good. Bland is Bad. Seem reasonable points to me, if you want to have a blog that people come to read.