As if updating my blogging software wasn’t enough of a hassle, it turns out that for most of today, my site was unreachable. It was the bad hangover of what looks to have been a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack. Wow, that makes me feel kind of important. Over the weekend, some malicious freaks hit my site over 100,000 times. These were page views, but the number of unique visitors was suspiciously low. The weird thing is that I had no trouble viewing the site until this morning, when the attack seemed to be over.

If you had trouble getting the site to load today, I apologize. And I’m glad you’re reading this now. No, not you, malicious freaks. You guys can go away and not come back. kthxbye.

Freshened Up

Well, a few hours of updating, uploading and customizing later, I have a freshly upgraded copy of WordPress 2.5 running Consolation Champs. I had to also update my current theme, Cutline, and then re-add all my customized header images, which also needed to be resized. So, these things never go as smoothly as advertised. A few familiar things are looking unfamiliar, but overall, it was fairly painless. Let me know if anything looks strange to you (other than the strange header images, which are strange all the time).

Disqus: Discuss

I’m trying out a new commenting system for a little while. Disqus is an external commenting system, but before you start screaming, it’s not another Haloscan. Disqus actually integrates pretty well with blog entries but what it promises is to free comments from the pages they’re on and weave them into a fuller conversation. I’ve been frustrated trying to follow all the places I’ve made comments to try to keep contributing to those conversations, and perhaps a solution like Disqus can help. On their site, each commenter has a dedicated Dashboard where I can see all comments made on my blog(s) and all comments I’ve made. I’ve only had this thing installed for an hour so obviously I can’t say how I like it in practice, but I hope you’ll jump in here and comment so I can see how it works. Do you have any experience with Disqus? What do you think of the current state of blog comment systems? Do they meet your needs?

SXSW 2008: Social Networking Indeed

I’m here in Austin for my eighth consecutive South by Southwest Interactive conference. I’ve come to look at this week as an essential creative reboot each year. The weather in Toronto combined with the months of near darkness always leave me drained in inspiration. And then I come to Texas and spend a week with a few thousand of my closest friends.

I didn’t plan well this year. And work got crazy. And I foolishly solicited SXSW filmmakers to send me screeners. So the leadup to this year’s conference was a flurry of late nights and trying to compile a super-calendar of Interactive, Film and Music events. Now that I’m here, it’s clear that I just can’t do it all.

In fact, my normal “shy extravert” personality has taken a hit and I am finding myself cocooning in my hotel room, which is unusual for me. I think part of it might be that I’m a bit nervous about trying to meet new people (ie. Film people). On the one hand, I’m a lazy man and don’t mind hanging around with my old Interactive tribe. But I feel like I might be missing an opportunity to learn something new and talk about another of my favourite things with like-minded people. But I’m also afraid of being embraced by the Film people and then missing out on all the stuff I’ve come to love about the Interactive conference. This conflict over different social choices as well as scheduling options has left me even more paralyzed than usual. And I don’t like feeling like this.

I’m hoping that staying a few days extra to see free Music day shows and hang around with my Austin pals will sort me out. I’ll post an update in a few days.

Is Blogging Now A Career Move?

It started with a well-meaning post from Joe Thornley, of Thornley-Fallis Public Relations, one of the savviest PR companies around. Their embrace of social media cheers me up immensely, and Joe writes interestingly and often about how blogging and other social media tools can be used as part of an overall public relations strategy. But when he called blogging an essential for new PR practitioners, a red flag went up for me. He advises students:

I do not hire entry level people without looking at their blog, following their twitter stream and checking their Facebook presence. I want a sense of who they are over time, not just when they are in my office. I want to know what they think on the issues they care about and how they express themselves. I want to see whether and how they connect with others. And I can find out all those things from their social media presence.

It’s not really Joe’s post specifically that bothered me. It’s how it will be interpreted by students eager to line up that first job. I’ve already seen what I call “the rise of the pundit” drain all the personality out of a huge part of the blogosphere. Eager to show how much we know, many of us now use our blogs as soapboxes, hoping to be noticed and hired. Maybe I’m just a crotchety old blogger, but I miss the days when blogs were an extension of a person’s whole life, not just of their job.

In fact, the advice Thornley gives to these students makes me afraid that their “blogs” will be nothing more than collections of sycophantic links to the people they want to notice them, or empty boosterism of a career they’ve yet to fully try on. When the doubts come, and the disappointment, and they finally have something interesting to say, will they be afraid to say it on their blogs?

I’m rehashing a lot of what I said in my comment over on Joe’s site, but one thing I want to repeat is that it would be a real shame if the blog became just an extension of the resumé.

I’ve had a few wobbles lately about crossing the boundary here and talking about work, but ultimately, I want this space to be a true representation of what I am thinking about and struggling with over time. If I was beginning my blog in 2008 instead of way back in 2000, I don’t know if I’d be able to hold that conviction with any confidence. And I find that sad.

Rebecca Blood, pioneer weblog historian, wrote way back in 2000 in Weblogs: A History and Perspective:

As corporate interests exert tighter and tighter control over information and even art, critical evaluation is more essential than ever. As advertisements creep onto banana peels, attach themselves to paper cup sleeves, and interrupt our ATM transactions, we urgently need to cultivate forms of self-expression in order to counteract our self-defensive numbness and remember what it is to be human. We are being pummeled by a deluge of data and unless we create time and spaces in which to reflect, we will be left with only our reactions. I strongly believe in the power of weblogs to transform both writers and readers from “audience” to “public” and from “consumer” to “creator.” Weblogs are no panacea for the crippling effects of a media-saturated culture, but I believe they are one antidote.

It’s getting harder to fly that idealistic flag, but I’m not ready to give up yet. The question is, how do we teach students to be fearless when they are being taught to blog in college to make them better employees?