Dear Readers, we have a special treat for you today. Our Smart Man Online, Tris Hussey of Qumana blog and Larix Consulting Blog, offers valuable advice on a number of important topics, including but not limited to marketing online, writing online, and, of course, blogging.
We met Tris via our connection to the Pro Bloggers group, and have enjoyed many email exchanges that -- well, won't make it into a Lip-sticking post anytime soon! Some things are just better left personal. We know you understand.
Tris has a unique and varied background, as you will discover, and he's not only good-looking, he's humorous. Two traits Jane likes a lot! Let us know what you think...
Lip-sticking: We're going to start this interview with Flickr...because that's what prompted us to beg you to be our Smart Man Online this week (we are not above begging good looking young men...for interviews, that's all, just interviews!) Your June 28th post at Blog Consulting and Professional Blogging, chastizes the photo company for a possible move to the U.S. Your reasoning is sound, but as U.S. citizens, we wonder how to respond.
Give our readers an overview of Flickr (for those who are not sure what it is) and some insight into your reason for questioning their possible move.
Tris: Hi, I'm Tris, I'm 35, a Scorpio, and single. I like to cook and take long walks on the beach ... oh wait, it's not that kind of interview. Oops. ;-).
So, Jane, Flickr. Well, Flickr is a true Canadian online success story. It was originally started by Ludicorp as an online game, and soon morphed into a social-networking and photo-sharing site. Basically you upload your pictures (digital, of course) and share them with the world, or just family and friends.
It's very cool and very, very easy. Flickr/Ludicorp was bought by Yahoo! this year for a rumoured $35-40 million USD. Not bad for a four person shop. Anyway, on June 10th the folks at Flickr e-mailed that they were going to make life great for all of us by moving the servers to the States.
Sounds good. Bigger, faster servers, more bandwidth, cool! Well, there's a dark side to it all and that's the Patriot Act. Under the Patriot Act if a U.S. law enforcement agency feels that a "person of interest" has something on Flickr that warrant investigation, Yahoo must allow them access and the suspects, or the rest of us can never be informed. Ever. And they don't need a warrant. Same goes for your house, etc. Regardless of whether it could be, or has been used as such, the problem is that we'd never know.
Is the move a foregone conclusion? Yes, it's already done. Are services like GMail, etc also at risk? Yes. I wrote my post to try to raise some awareness and stir up some controversy. Which hopefully won't get me banned from entering the States. Have I achieved what I wanted? Only a little. I think many people are afraid to talk about it openly. It didn't get the attention and traffic I wanted, but it is getting picked up more and more, little by little. I'm still happy I wrote it though.
Lip-sticking: Ok...let's move on to Qumana...THIS is something Jane is more than curious about. When visiting your Qumana blog , we were delighted to see a woman's smiling face -- smart marketing there, and we also enjoyed being treated to an audio of you describing this new tool...so, we love the audio (can't wait to do some on our blog) and we are intrigued by the tool. Give us more than an overview...tell us how long the learning curve is and... why we should care.
Tris: Qumana is fun. There's a great story behind me getting involved with it. About a year ago I was leaving market research and starting to begin consulting again. A mutual friend connected me with Jon Husband of Wirearchy. Well, he and Fred Fabro were working on this knowledge gathering, posting, saving tool. They thought it would make a great blogging app. I started to work with them. Give some feedback. All for free for a long time (doh!), then they kicked off Qumana and I started working for them more formally.
The funny thing is I spent like the first 3-4 months saying, nope nice app, but doesn't work in the blogging flow. Too many steps, not easy enough. So Qumana was born, still heavy on knowledge gathering and such. Great tool. I used the heck out of it (can I say "heck" here?), but really for people who blog a lot it was more "bloggus interruptus" than wow!
Late in 2004 we decided to build a prototype of a very, very simple application. Something with our DropPad to drag and drop content, links, files, image onto and a simple WYSIWYG editor. It was a HUGE hit in our early trials. We've been slowly, under the radar, adding more and more features, but still keeping it extremely simple. If you already use Word or e-mail, you can use QumanaLE. There is really very little to learn. Drag, drop, post. Our mantra is Easy Blogging. Simple as that. And, oh yeah, it's free. This version will always be free. And even better, we're going to release a new version soon (call it 1.5) that, well, will really, really shake things up. I've been dropping hints all over my blogs. Shouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out ;-).
Lip-sticking: Rocket scientists we're not...so, we'll have to review your blog posts and see if we can figure it out. You're a founding member of the ProBloggers Group, which has been somewhat silent since being formed. Do you know where this group stands? What can we expect from it in the near future? What should our readers know about it?
Tris: The PBA went on a bit of hiatus. We all had great ideas, great plans, and then realized—wait, we're really, really busy people spread out all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe! So, Paul (our most illustrious leader) has committed to getting it going again. I think the summer will be a great time to do this. Hopefully the lazy, hazy days of summer will bring it out of hiatus.
What to expect? Expect that we're really going to hit the blogosphere with cool stuff. We've got some of the sharpest minds going in the core group. Unfortunately, we're also some of the busiest minds. I want to promote professional blogging as a career, work on the value proposition for businesses, and serve as a group that can give fair and unbiased reviews of new tools and technologies. Not to mention have the coolest blog in town. Come on, with our talent pool, one post a week from the likes of Steve Rubel, Amy Garhan, Toby Bloomberg, you Jane, and many, many others. That's draw enough!
Lip-sticking: Yvonne aka Jane is a member of the ProBloggers Group, also (we favor transparency in our blog writing), and as such, has been treated to some titillating information about YOU, Tris. Information you don't share in your online bio. Share it with our readers
Tris: Oh Jane, whatever could you mean? Me? Titillating? (blush). Okay I give. While I haven't always been a blogger, I have always been a computer geek (ever since my first Apple IIe in high school) and a science geek (I wanted to be a paleontologist [WOW!] digging up dinosaurs when I was four or five). So my story ...
Well I went to a small liberal arts college in Maine called Colby College. I studied Anthropology with a minor in Geology. My main focus then, and what I got a Masters degree in later, was paleoecology and paleoclimatology. That is, reconstructing past environments and climates from information like (in my case and speciality) fossil pollen preserved in lake sediment. I studied palynology (fossil pollen analysis) and received a Masters degree from the University of Maine in Quaternary Studies in 1993.
The Quaternary Period is the current period of geologic time we live in and is known for the great Ice Ages. I spent a lot of time pondering and working to help understand how vegetation and climate in the Southeastern US changed for the last 30,000 yrs. When I finished I had one of the most complete, detailed, and well dated records of climate change in North America. Yeah, it was cool. All the data is publicly available through NOAA, if you care to look for it. Yes, I go back once and a while and look.
Okay so armed with my fresh Masters degree I proceeded to get a job running the paleoecology lab at Duke University, Dept. of Botany. I was barely 24. Only now -- a decade later -- am I amazed at this honour. I was too young and pompous to see it then. Ah, youth. Anyway, I left academia about a year and a half later because I realized that I had, at 25, maxed out both my earning potential and career potential running a lab—okay and the boss and I kept fighting over who got to play with the $20,000 toys first. [we hate to say it but...that's just like a man] And I was married and well, lab geeks just don't earn serious bread. I started my career completely over at the bottom rung doing tech support at a federal research centre. Ironically I was earning more money. I also had a blast and eventually learned HTML. I started building websites way back when in the hand coding days.
I moved up from tech support to being the "web consultant" for the research centre, helping scientists and others get their sites built and online. I moved onto Glaxo Wellcome US and helped launch over 2 dozen sites in about 1.5 yrs. I moved to Canada to be the Webmaster for Glaxo Wellcome Canada, and later GlaxoSmithKline. Didn't launch as many sites, but continued to have fun. I moved to BC in 2000 and left GSK in 2003. I tried consulting and then market research, then in April 2004 ... blogging. The rest, is history.
Lip-sticking: Give us a moment to catch our breath! Ok...now that you're a writer, and a good one, we might add...give our readers some insight into what makes for good blog writing. How does one become a "professional blogger"?
Tris: Jeez, Jane, you know how to make a guy blush. Thank you.
Good blog writing is totally about honestly and truth. Write from the heart. Don't worry about the details of writing, believe me, those will come, just pour it out. Say what you feel, stir up controversy, and have fun. Most of all, practice. Just practice, and not only writing, but reading too. Read a lot. Anything and everything. My blogging starts to get a little stale when I'm not reading enough.
You know professional blogging usually, right now, is happening by accident. I started pro blogging long after I started blogging. I realized that lots of people don't like to write and are intimidated by it. So if I can make it easier by starting off their blog with my content, maybe sparking some ideas in the process, cool. Oh yeah, getting paid to do all this is pretty freakin' cool too!
Lip-sticking: We concentrate our writing on marketing to women who shop online...what's your expertise in marketing, especially as it relates to the Internet, and/or blogs? How do you feel about blogs with advertising?
Tris: I've been an Internet marketer from nearly the beginning, at least the past 8 years.When I worked for Glaxo women were the primary targets of our marketing and advertising. [Because] Women make most of the health decisions in the family. So, I spent a lot of time thinking about and listening to women and their concerns about family and health. The frustration of not being able to get boyfriend or husband to visit a doctor when he needed to. Having to shoulder the burden of responsibility of learning about all the medications, the options, etc. So I like to think I have some insight to women online. Toby says I'm the Sensitive New Age Guy blogger.
Now, blogs and advertising. Well, I can't give too much away, but I think blog writers and owners don't have great and effective options today for earning real money on their blogs. Qumana is going to change this. [ooohhh...insider information! hope this won't get us in trouble!]
Lip-sticking: Speaking of advertising...which is meant to spark sales, of course -- do you shop online? What's the BEST advice you can give to companies that SELL online...and tell us the WORST online sales experience you've ever had.
Tris: Do I shop online? Does a bear ... Yes all the time. I live on an Island so I can't just hop over to the electronics superstore or office supply on a whim. I can get core things here, but I buy my office supplies, computer hardware and all kinds of other goodies online.
Advice... have your mom try to buy something. [good advice -- we give it often] Not to pick on mom's, mine's great and very Internet savvy, actually (Hi Mom!). What I mean is get someone non-technical and not associated with the development of the website to go through the process and get their feedback. It can be very enlightening. Testing, testing, testing. Very key. Don't take the word of your developers that something is fixed and working, test it yourself.
Hmm, worst. Well the one that jumps out was when I was buying a $15 USD item (a leather case to hold some of my fountain pens) and had to pay $20 in shipping to get it to Canada. Jeez that hurt. While others have been inconvenient at times, I still try to avoid buying things from this store, even though I drool over their pens every catalog.
Lip-sticking: There's a thread of commentary making its way around the Internet that says: "the Internet has and will continue to diminish the importance of writing skills and the quality of writing over time" (this quote thanks to Bob Bly, copywriter extraordinaire). How do you feel about this? Blogs are taking a lot of flak for this...citizen publishing being considered bad writing...certainly not worthy of the title of journalist. Comments?
Tris: Nope. Just the opposite. I see blogging as the great hope for kids to improve their writing and get into it. Our CEO's son has just started blogging about rock guitars. He's really getting into it. Kids need practice writing, heck we all do. But, why write about a topic that your English teacher assigned (compare and contrast the world of 1984 with Brave New World ...) when you can practice writing about something you like!
Who cares if it's about boyfriends, girlfriends, baseball cards, or sports, just freakin' write! It is so, so important that you can fully and completely express yourself in writing. Now more than ever. E-mail, blogs, memos, often your only exposure to those making hiring, firing, and promoting decisions is a few e-mails that have been passed up the line. With all due respect to Bob Bly. You can learn rules of grammar later (I sure did), learn style, flow, and expression first. That's what blogging is all about. [we hope readers will read Bob's post -- it's worth a look.]
Lip-sticking: Let's get frivilous...what's your favorite time of year and, have you ever gone skinny-dipping?
Tris: Fall is my most favourite time of year. Crisp air, crisp apple, cider. Ahh.
Skinny-dipping? Who hasn't? Many times. Love it. Funny story, I spent most of my summers in Maine at a cottage my parents had (still have), and a couple friends and I one late summer evening decided to go skinny-dipping. Now I always thought my friend's girlfriend was cute, but between the night-time darkness and my blindness without glasses, I couldn't see a thing! Sigh.
Lip-sticking: We couldn't help ourselves...we just thought that last question would get you laughing. Laughing is good therapy -- so, to sign off, tell us a funny story or a joke. Not too off-color. :-)
Tris: Gee does the above count? Should I throw in another? [indeed]
Okay a true story from my youth (as I've been told by my mom) ... sitting on Santa's knee when I was a wee four years old, Santa asked me "So have you been good this year?" to which I replied, "Santa, when you're four, it's really hard to be good."
That's the truth isn't it, maybe for all of us still. [very apropos' LOL]
Do you find it hard to be good, dear reader? Relatively speaking...and we don't mean those folks who show up at your door in August to spend time relaxing by your pool...being good or being bad is just a matter of opinion. We think Tris was very good today.
What's not to like about that?