Linux, politics, and other interesting things
At this month’s meeting of the Linux Users of Victoria  I gave a talk titled Everyone Should Blog (unfortunately the title was missed in the meeting announcement). I’ve been meaning to write about this but was finally prodded into writing by a ProBlogger post about overcrowding in the blog market . Darren (the ProBlogger) suggests that the blog space is overcrowded, blogs are being sold for unreasonably high prices, and a bust similar to the dot-com bust may occur.
I agree that there is some over-commercialisation, and that for Darren’s core market (people who want to make money directly from blogging) this is a serious issue to consider.
However I believe that there is a lot of scope for more blogs. Firstly all of the services in the social networking space seem to have some feature that resembles a blog in some way (the online diary if not the RSS feed part of the definition). I have previously blogged about some ideas for an open social networking system . A reform of the social networking scene should have the possibility of adding even more users and having them all be bloggers. While not everyone is capable of writing a blog that is of interest to a large audience, everyone who is capable of writing is capable of writing (or contributing to) a blog that is of interest to some people.
The next potential area for expansion is in sales/marketting blogs. An example of this is car sales, it seems that every web site run by a car manufacturer only has information on the current model and at best only has information on prices of second-hand cars. There is a real need for authoritative information on older cars, it helps customers and it helps the car companies. If Ford was to provide good information on the cars they manufactured a few years ago it would increase the chance that I would buy a second-hand Ford and if enough people made similar decisions then it would increase the prices of such cars (basic rules of supply and demand). Increasing the second-hand price increases the price that people are prepared to pay for new cars and also allows them to buy a new car sooner – both of which are benefits to the manufacturer. It wouldn’t be difficult to use a blog server for all the information on new cars, you could have a front page that lists the available marques and links to the posts announcing the latest models of those marques. With a small amount of work writing a theme you could have WordPress giving an appearance that’s almost indistinguishable from any of the major car companies web sites – apart from the fact that every car’s technical data would have a permanent URL of the form www.carcompany.com.au/2007/MARQUE/CODE which would be obviously a permanent link (unlike the Java servlet and ASP URLs you currently see) and therefore would encourage deep links by enthusiasts. This would also give RSS feeds for free (I would be interested in adding RSS feeds for several of the Australian car companies to my Planet installation if possible).
A final benefit is the issue of ethics. When car companies remove data about cars they sold the previous year you have to wonder whether they have unreasonable price increases or whether the new cars have some specs that are lesser than the current cars. The general trend is slow and steady increases in features and performance at each price point, the number of people who are more likely to buy from an ethical (trustworthy) company is probably greater than the number of people who will look for details to nit-pick (and such people will find out anyway).
Another use for blogs is for public events. It’s not uncommon for people to want to get some background information on an event that they attended years ago. If all the information was archived in the blog of the organisation that hosted the event then it would be easy for everyone to access. This would give additional promotion opportunities for the hosting organisation at almost no cost.
Anyone who is announcing a future event should have an RSS feed for new information related to it, then as information is released all the interested people can see it in their favourite feed reader. Many people refuse to subscribe to announcement lists due to fear of spam and the fact that it is often inconvenient or impossible to unsubscribe (sometimes a list server regards unsubscribe requests as spam).
Corporations have many potential uses of blogs, Google announces news about all their products via blogs and Microsoft has a good recruiting blog. Smaller companies can still achieve some of the same benefits via blogging. Also it’s well known that a blog which provides useful information about products in a field (not just the products being sold) can really attract potential customers who then react to the adverts in the blog. The same technique can be used by job seekers. Blog well and mention that you are looking for work and you will get offers of interviews.
There is also no shortage of political and lobbying blogs as well, they don’t tend to convince the opposition but they are good for converting people who are ambivalent about an issue. As the people who read blogs get older (and therefore richer and more influential) such blogs will become increasingly important.
I think that I have demonstrated the potential for a significant number of new blogs, some of which would have large subscriber bases and a lot of influence (which means a lot of potential profit for the Problogger crowd). Have I missed any major areas for developing new blogs?