Panel discussion on blogs and social media

Kim works at an architecture firm, and got the opportunity to attend the US Green Building Council’s conference called GreenBuild held in Boston this year. The conference is meant for architects, engineers and builders to share ideas about how to design and build structures using renewable materials and environmentally friendly practices. This conference is just like SolidWorks World for architecture, except that they had somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 people attend.

Kim went to a session led by a panel of bloggers writing about topics pertinent to the conference attendees. She went to this session because she has started a blog on green architecture and sustainable design practices. I have asked her to guest blog about that session on Matt Writes. If you’re reading this blog, you’re involved in social media. Social media is the future of how you will get news, especially detailed news on niche topics like product development, CAD software or architecture. It’s important for all of us to understand the current situation and trends. Here’s Kim…

As some of you may know, I have recently started writing a blog about sustainable practices for green architecture, called Between Yellow and Blue, which can now be found on Novedge Pulse. My blog has stemmed from Matt’s involvement with blogs. It’s one of those “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” deals. As Matt has been writing about, I attended the GreenBuild 2008 conference in Boston. During the conference I attended one seminar in particular that piqued Matt’s interest, and he was excited to have me guest post to share it with you!

Yesterday, I attended a seminar titled Green Blogs and the Built Environment. It covered blogs about buildings or things built. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the seminar, but then those are usually the best kind. It was a very diverse crowd of approximately 300-350 people ranging from the mildly curious “I’m thinking about starting a blog” people to those who already write blogs that make money. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, having just started my green blog. It was lead by a moderator and 4 panelists who with the proper training could have been any one of younses (y’all SolidWorks or other CAD bloggers).  Social media is a provocative idea for someone of my 40-something generation between boomers and gen-xers.

The moderator was Leigh Stringer, http://thegreenworkplace.com. The panelists were: Lloyd Alter of http://treehugger.com, Willem Maas of http://greenhomeguide.com, Preston Koerner of http://jetsongreen.com and Stephen Del Percio ofhttp://greenbuildingsnyc.com. Every one of the panelists said they dislike their URLs. I personally like Jetson Green, which makes me think of ruhroh Astro.

They started off the session with an overview of a survey they had done. This survey was the springboard for most of the discussion. One of the questions that jumped out at me more than the others was that the overwhelming majority of blog readers surveyed reported that they preferred fact-based writing over opinion-based writing. This was a point that several of the panelists debated. The panelists consensus was that blogs should be fact based, in the writer’s voice and illustrated with their own opinions. Facts should be thoroughly vetted. They gave several examples of vapor posts, where projects that were never built were reported and picked up by other blogs and reported as actual built structures – they in fact never happened.

Another part of the discussion was that people overwhelmingly mistrust the mainstream media, and turn to blogs for truth in whatever they are searching for. An important aspect is that green technology is changing rapidly, and blogging gets information out in real time. Mainstream media is sluggish, and does not necessarily share the passion.

When asked what makes a successful blog, they all agreed that it was “grit and enthusiasm” that rose above all other qualities. I found that somewhat poignant, as I see those traits in Matt’s blog, and witness his rants up close and personal on an almost daily basis. I think the success of his blog is due to his passion concerning his livelihood.

Then the conversation turned toward monetary issues. The moderator and all of the panelists except one had day jobs. They were all bloggin just as I do it, and Matt does it, and probably most readers do it – in their “free time”. Preston said he could either be watching reruns of Friends, or blogging. All of them agreed that blogging wasn’t about the money. At least that wasn’t how they started it. They were somewhat hesitant to talk about how much money they made, however, one felt compelled to throw out the figure $10k-20k/month. There seemed to be 2 ways for them to get paid. One was through Google Ad Sense and the other being to corporatize the blog. Treehugger.com was recently purchased by the Discovery Channel. Lloyd pretty much stayed out of the conversation where money was concerned.

They all had been approached at one time or another to write unpaid product or project reviews on their own blogs. They all agreed that as long as they were approached in honesty and that the product/project was good they would go ahead and write the reviews.

Lloyed with Treehugger.com interjected here that while his blog was corporatized, he has no involvement with the marketing arm of Discovery Channel, and that sometimes that can cause awkward situations. For example, he recently wrote a post about new line of green cleaning supplies manufactured by a large corporation in an unfavorable light. You can probably guess who the advertiser on the header of that post was. He did go on to say that he had never  been asked to edit or rewrite anything to appease an advertiser.

The subject of Twitter then became a lively part of the discussion. First the question was asked if Twitter would replace blogging. And pretty much since no one can limit themselves to 140 characters for a post, that doesn’t seem like a possibility. However, as we were all talking about this, one of the panelists was twittering live, much to the chagrin of his fellow panelists. The comment was made “I really don’t care what someone had for lunch”. That’s kind of what I hear from Matt. Sometimes Twitter can be a waste of time, but sometimes it can be nice to broadcast something to anyone who is listening. It tends to be all-consuming, maybe even addictive. The panel seemed to agree that the most positive use of Twitter for bloggers was for announcing a new blog post.

I think the best advice I took away from this seminar is to keep my blog factually based, but in my own voice, and while interjecting my own opinions and feelings. I’ve met a few of the SoldiWorks bloggers in Barcelona, I keep up with some of your blogs from time to time. I appreciate how several diverse styles are expressed in personal voices, even when you are all blogging about the same topic.

 

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