Par Excellence - For the Executive Woman
Commencement Notes from Mom

A Little Bit of Girl-Talk on Blogger Stories

This week's interview, a part of the ongoing Girl-Talk series, took a little longer because I gave my interviewee a task to complete. You will see what that was, as you read on. Toby Bloomberg is one of my favoritest blogging gal-friends. {I know favoritest isn't a word - get over it!] When she introduced her latest online project, Blogger Stories, I was so jealous that she thought of it first! Not really - I'm not jealous of my blogging friends, but...I did wish I'd been so creative. Since I wasn't, and Toby was, I knew I wanted to applaud her creativity and to share this outstanding creation with all my readers.

I wanted to do this because I think stories are the fabric of our lives; quilted, silken, burlaped, or braided, stories give us warmth and hope, they provide memory and reflection, and they help each one of us weave a blanket of many colors and textures - that is uniquely our own. So, I think Toby's Blogger Stories are going to create a musical quilt of voices from all over the blogosphere - soft voices, strong voices, little voices, big voices, whatever. The goal is to bring the voices together - to let the rest of us tune in to hear the song that these story-voices will ultimately become. I think it's "the song of me and you." What do you think it is?

Read on...

Yvonne: When did you first get the great idea of a blogger stories blog? Where you suddenly awakened by a bolt of lightning one night - or a bad dream?

Toby: Yvonne, that’s a great question. On my main squeeze blog, Diva Marketing, I run a series called Biz Blog Profiles. It takes a look at why businesses are blogging. Blogger Stories grew out of an interest and curiosity about the back-stories behind bloggers themselves. Toby_bloomberg_header

It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for almost a year. I floated the idea by some blog friends and all of the feedback was “do it.” Right now you might say it’s in “beta.” I’m not quite sure how it will evolve or where the adventure will take me. Several people have suggested the natural next steps would be including podcasts and then vlogs.

Yvonne: Those of us who blog know that blogs with stories to tell are very powerful, not only in their ability to connect with their readers, but in the way they create moments in history that might otherwise have been lost. Do you agree?

Toby: Absolutely. I love your phrase “create moments in history that might otherwise have been lost.” I never thought of it as “creating moments” but capturing and preserving experiences. It’s an interesting thought and if one looks at these type of stories as creating, as well as preserving, they take on multiple dimensions and uses.

Yvonne: How many new friends do you think you've made via your blog, Diva Marketing? Are these the people you're tapping into for Blogger Stories? How else are you gathering stories?

Toby: In the two years since launching Diva Marketing I’ve guess I’ve met hundreds of bloggers. Some are what I might term blog buddies and others are true friends and a few like you, dear Yvonne, are kindred spirits.

To be quite candid, since this was/is a new blog and an untried concept, I felt uncomfortable asking people who I didn’t know to tell me their stories. Especially since the blog had not launched. It seemed safer and easier to ask blog buddies to take a risk to provide content (even self-serving content) for a new blog.  My give back was the opportunity to tell their story their way and a bit more visibility in the blogoshere and of course, a opportunity to try some new. I’ve found bloggers to be folks who are innovative and not afraid to jump into the deep end of life.

I began developing a list of bloggers I came in contact with in the blogospehere via posts, trackbacks, links and also a few bloggers who I’ve met in meet-ups and conferences.  They were people who I had at least a casual relationship with. To my surprise and delight everyone loved the idea and agreed to participate.

At the moment this is very much a blog viral strategy. I really appreciate this opportunity to tell the Blogger Story story on Lip-sticking.

I’m teasing the posts on Diva with a link to the Blogger Stories site. In those posts I include an email address to send stories – bloggerstories@yahoo.com. In addition, on Blogger Stories site there is a request for stories and of course the email address.

Yvonne: This is going to sound strange but - the idea of blogger stories makes me think of ancient times, of folks sitting around a campfire as a red sun sinks beyond far off treetops. One person is talking and gestulating and sharing the day's hunt or whatever, with the others. Then, someone starts singing...and the children all clap.  Am I way off base to imagine a scene like that, connected to the technology we use to blog?

Toby: No wonder people love Lip-sticking .. you are a natural story teller! It seems to me that the more technology infiltrates into our lives the more we have not a desire but a need to connect to people in that old-fashion “corner grocery store relationship” way. (By the way here’s the link to “Grandma and the corner grocery relationship concept.” And yes, that is a real photo of me and Grandma!)

As of May 25, 2006 Technorati was tracking 41 million blogs. Why do so many people take the time to write blogs if not for a way to connect with others?

The blogosphere as one big campfire? Perhaps .. though let’s keep in mind that some of those stories are dark and not everyone is singing Kumbaya in perfect harmony!

Yvonne: Can you predict where blogging will be in the next five years? Not necessarily how it will look or feel, nobody knows that...but, will it still be here? Does it have staying power, in your opinion?

Toby: Let’s take it up one level. Social media / social computer is here to stay. No question about that. Blogging is simply a technical means to deliver the conversation. Within our mobile world people are demanding a means to stay in touch with family and friends. Smart businesses get that the Godfather was wrong. Business is personal and blogs provide a competitive advantage channel.

I’ve said this before, I think blogs and social media tactics will be integrated into some new technology – call it a blog, call it a website, call it a mobile device, call it a podcast – where sharing information (audio, visual, text) will be “mashed-up” (my new favorite word). Communications will cost pennies (or be free), be transmitted at the speed of light and be easy for everyone to use.

This is off topic, but our challenge is to bridge the Digital Divide for the children of the world. You presented that concept in a recent post. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the blogopshere could figure away to join together to make that happen? What a story that would be to tell!

Yvonne: Speaking of stories...what was your favorite story as a child? Can you relate it to your blogging today?

Toby: Here’s a story within a story within a story. When I was a little girl my dad told my sister Susan and me stories about an elephant. Now this elephant, who never had a name, just so happened to have the most wonderful adventures with 2 little girls named Susan and Toby. Bedtime elephant stories were a special time.

It’s funny what touches your heart and interweaves with the fabric of your soul. Sentimental Susan collected elephants because of dad’s stories. As we grew older Dad's elephant stories became memories for us of the gentler times of our childhood. When my dad died, Susan's elephants were a tangible reminder, and in a funny way, a tribute to a father who was dearly loved and very much missed.

Yvonne: Who tells better stories, men or women?

Toby: Oh Yvonne, you are so funny! It’s not a gender deal but rather one of imagination, creativity and sensitivity. It depends on the person of course. In my family it seemed as though it was my mom who more often read us stories and my dad who created them. My cousins and I loved to listen to family stories told by our grandparents, aunts and uncles. One of the regrets that I have is that so many of my “family stories” have poof vanished with the passing of time because they were not captured in writing.

I would encourage your readers, especially those with elderly relatives, to think about how they can preserve their families stories. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a family blog where stories are podcasted? In addition to reading bedtime stories or listening to Barney in the car children hear Grandma and Papa tell the stories of their lives. [hear,hear! and, of course, I agree it's non-gender...just couldn't resist throwing that in there.]

Yvonne: Tell us a story about Max.

Toby: Max was the very best present I ever received from a client. Which I suppose is a “story in itself.” For people who haven’t read Diva Marketing, Max is my cute rescue Westie pooch who every so often finds his way into a post along with a photo. I’ve been told that Max has a fan club somewhere in the blogosphere. And for Shel Israel – no Max will not be starting his own blog, unless you want to write it!

A Max story…when Max came to live with me, I bought him a lovely doggy pillow bed and placed it in a cozy corner of my bedroom. The first night I put Max on his new doggy bed he wanted none of that. He immediately jumped up on to my bed. I put him back on his bed. He jumped back on my bed. I put him back on his bed. He jumped back on my bed.

Max is a really smart puppy (how smart I was to soon find out!) and eventually he got it. Or at least I thought he did. When I woke up the next morning Max was .. you guessed it… back on my bed. This little game went on for several nights. I would put Max in his bed and he would wait until I was asleep and jump back on my bed. Max finally trained me. Bet you can guess where Max sleeps these days ;-)

Yvonne: Whose story are you really, really, really...hoping to hear???

Toby: Yours Yvonne! Not to sound trite but it’s the next story I read. Do you remember the great line from the film Forest Gump?“Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get.” Stories are like that for me. You never know what you’ll find when you begin to read one.The stories that are coming in for Blogger Stories are touching, funny and heart warming. One reader called them "inspirational." There are no “ordinary” people. Although there are only a handful of stories up what is a surprise is how blogs have rejuvenated the careers of several people in their 50’s and 60’s. Goes to prove that blogs are not necessarily a “young person’s medium.” Perhaps a “young at heart person’s medium” would be more accurate.

Yvonne: I'm going to start a story here...and let you finish it...A couple of years ago, relatively speaking, a tall redheaded young woman named Jane decided to throw a party for her parent's 50th anniversary. As she began to plan for the party - researching the locations of all her parents' old friends, and even family members, she came up against the 21st century way of life: that is, one where the shrinking world actually got bigger than the whole universe. All because more than half of the important people Jane wanted to invite to her parents' anniversary party lived - across the state, across the nation, and some even lived across the world! It began to look like the party would be Jane, her mom and dad, and her Uncle Harry (who still lived next door). Everyone was thrilled to be invited. Everyone called on the phone and gushed over Jane's descriptions of the party favors, balloons, table decorations - and, of course, the food. But, they all expressed their regret at not being able to attend. Then, one day...Jane got an idea...

Toby: Jane had just read about Millie, My Mom’s Blog, and her virtual birthday party. Friends from all over the world toasted Millie’s 80th with celebration blog posts, happy birthday comments and emails.  It was a light bulb moment.

Jane knew immediately what to do. She would create a virtual anniversary party for her parent’s 50tt. Most if not all of her mom and dad’s friends and family had internet access and the seniors online were as savvy as their grandkids. Not only would Jane create a special anniversary blog but she would build an entire community where friends and relatives could stop by to leave their good wishes.

A present to all would be that people who hadn’t been in contact with each other would have an opportunity re connect. Since the community would reside in the virtual world everyone would have easy access no matter of distance or time zone. Everyone could join in the fun.

Jane also set up a photo account where friends could post pictures of her parents and of the good times they shared. She was excited that everyone could participate in making it a special day by adding their personal touch.

But Uncle Harry had his doubts. “Janie,” said Uncle Harry. “A party on the internet is just not the same as in-person. I don’t want to type your Mom and Dad a note on a website. I want to see and talk to them. This is new fangled idea is just not going to work. I’d rather mow my grass than sit around a computer.”

Jane was crushed. Maybe Uncle Harry was right. A virtual party seemed like a great idea but the fun of a party is the immediacy. That night, over a few beers, she told her “geek” friends Dick and Sally about her idea and Uncle Harry’s concerns.

Dick was right on it. “Janie, Janie, Janie. Not a problem. Here’s what we can do. First we’ll set up a Skpe conference call for all the guests to dial in. Since they’re online anyway it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

“Great idea. And we can send the guest e-invitations with information on how to sign-up and the time and date.” said Sally. “We’ll ask them to RSVP so we’ll even know how many people will be ‘attending.’

"Your Uncle Harry is right. We need more visuals, more interaction to help people feel like they’re really partying. Let’s put videos and audios on the community. People can send us the files and we can include them on the site. And here’s the cool thing. We’ll make sure there’s an RSS feed to all so they can download those babies into their MP3 players. We’ll call it a virtual goodie bag!”

Now the ball was rolling again. Jane’s eyes lit up. “Mom and Dad don’t have an MP3 player how about if I get them one of the new video iPods and preload it with the podcasts and videos? “

“Awesome.” Dick reached down to give Spot a scratch behind the ears. “Uncle Harry wants to see the action. We’ll make sure everyone can do that. My gift is a computer video camera. That solves Uncle Harry’s real-time problem. Everyone will be able to see your folks. And with Skype everyone will be able to talk to them and each other."

Jane took another sip of her beer and ran her fingers through her red tresses. “Thank you! Without a doubt this will be the most unique 50th wedding celebration. Hmm .. if this works maybe we can turn it into a “beyond Web 2.0” business!   THE END

Aha! "Beyond Web 2.0" a business! Toby, let's talk!

Wasn't that great, everybody? Fun, informative, and thought-provoking. Everything a blog post should be. Now, go over to Blogger Stories and sign up!

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Toby

Yvonne - thank you for your too kind words and the opportunity to tell the story of Blogger Stories. I love your concept that stories "weave a blanket of many colors and textures."

Looking forward to telling your story!

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