Reflecting, Connecting: Alumni Blogspots
by Janice Endresen
Bloggers blog for myriad reasons and Johnson School alumni are no exception. Those who wrote in to tell us about their blogs started them to keep faraway friends and family posted about their daily lives, promote their businesses while providing helpful tips to their site's visitors, provide ongoing commentary about the culture of a foreign country that is a temporary home base, and use as a platform for sharing professional interests and industry-related news with other industry professionals.
Technorati, a Web site that tracks, indexes, and rates the popularity of blogs, reports that the World Wide Web hosts over 112.8 million blogs and counting. That number grows by 175,000 new blogs every day, according to Technorati, and bloggers post updates to their blogs 1.6 million times per day.
The amount of time bloggers spend writing their blogs and the frequency of their posts also varies widely, but it's a commonly held belief that the more frequent your posts, the greater interest you generate among readers, and the more likely you are to see your readership grow. That takes time and dedication. As blogger Jim Lyons, MBA '81, puts it: "There's a saying among bloggers . . . that at some point ownership changes hands: You start out owning the blog, but at some point you question at least if the blog actually owns you!"
Here's a sampling of Johnson School alumni who are blogging...
Hotel real estate executive
BLOG: THE ACCIDENTAL BUSINESSMAN [www.accidentalbusinessman.com]
Readers: Family, friends, and colleagues about 50 total
Purpose: Barry started his blog to keep people posted about where he was, what he saw, and what he did during a road trip he took around the United States as a mid-career break. He describes his blog as "the online journal of a 43-year old guy who is attempting to take twelve months off from working to travel the USA in a 19-foot, Class B motor home, seeing the sights, visiting friends, and playing Golf Magazine's 'Top 100 You Can Play' golf courses." Barry says that what he likes best about his blog is the process of "creating a permanent record of this unique period in my life."
Highlights: Barry's blog includes accounts of side trips to China and South America, and is filled with detailed descriptions and spectacular photos of the many places he visited. "I've been overwhelmed by the positive response from friends and family," he says.
Readers: Busy, well-educated women between the ages of 25 and 45
Purpose: Sheer Balance [www.sheerbalance.com], a new Web site Brett founded in 2007 is "aimed at helping individuals look, feel and be the best they can be, naturally and sustainably," and dedicated to providing "clear, concise information on everything about living a healthy, balanced life." Brett added two distinct blogs to the Sheer Balance site to give it an interactive component and to provide users with a sense of community and belonging, thereby making it more personable, friendly, and approachable.
Highlights: The Q&A blog is meant to be a resource users can turn to for expert advice. Brett's Blog is meant to capture Brett's personal perspectives and values, and provide informal commentary and insights around health and wellness.
Gustavo Campos, MBA '07
Management associate, wholesale bank credit risk, at Standard Chartered Bank
BLOG: ASIAN ADVENTURES
Readers: Friends and family in the United States and Mexico about 50 total
Purpose: "I started my blog to document our new life in Singapore and the birth of our twin children (boy and girl) after finishing my MBA," says Gustavo. Noting that life in Asia is new not only to him but also to most of his friends, Gustavo quickly decided to focus on the cultural differences between Asia on the one hand, and the United States and Mexico on the other. "All my professional life has been in Mexico and USA and Asia has been an unknown place," he writes.
Highlights: Gustavo posts to his blog every few days, and comments on every aspect of life, for example: the contrast between the wealth in Singapore and the poverty in the countryside; getting a haircut; the rapid rate of new construction; the Singapore air show; and taxi regulations. The blog occasionally includes photos.
Stanton Champion, MBA '07
Product Manager for Rackspace, an IT hosting company
BLOG: STANTON CHAMPION [stantonchampion.com]
Readers: Family, friends, and others who are interested in business and technology discussions about 20 regular readers. Stanton's goal is to increase that number by broadening readership beyond friends and family.
Purpose: After losing the layout and images from his initial blog following his hosting provider's technical failure last August, Stanton redesigned it from scratch and changed the tone to reflect new interests and incorporate more business and technology discussions. Stanton writes about ten posts per month, and they frequently generate comments to which he then responds. "Interaction plays a huge role," Stanton says. "Any kind of discussion creates the ambiance of a more active blog, even if the discussion is just you and a few close friends."
Highlights: Stanton's blog includes his "quirky haikus" and his photography. "Despite the fact they're not truly business related, they add an air of whimsy that I think lends a human element to my blog," he says. A sampling of topics includes: a local grocery store's marketing strategy; the Bear Stearns meltdown; and the Texas primaries (Stanton lives in San Antonio).
an utterly free blog-on-the-go service
BY JAY WROLSTAD
So, you think you've mastered the art of blogging, pontificating with ease on an array of topics that pop into your head and sharing those thoughts in cyberspace. Or perhaps you find the concept, and the technology, a bit daunting. In either case, Utterz can lend a hand and it's only a phone call away.
This startup firm, cofounded by Michael Bayer, MBA '92, and Randy Corke, MBA '85, takes Web logs beyond mere words on a screen to a more personal, lively level by adding voice and video to the text, with all of the content delivered in real-time via mobile phone. The resulting multimedia mashup is posted online within minutes wherever the blogger desires.
"This is the easiest way to instantly share your thoughts and experiences wherever you are," Bayer says. "It's all about user empowerment. We are making it easy to stay in touch, with technology that supplements mobile communications, telephony, and digital media all coming together. And it's coming together at the same time as social networks are taking off."
Given the ubiquity of cell phones (3 billion users worldwide and counting) and the growing popularity of blogs (nearly 113 million at last count) the two men have good reason to be optimistic about Utterz. "Everyone has a cell phone now, and more people are using them to send text messages, take photos, and surf the Web," Corke notes. "With Utterz you can use all of the cell phone's capabilities and connect with your friends. And we have links enabling people to post their blogs to Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, Twitter, or any other site, including utterz.com."
Once the information is posted, friends or associates can access it and share their content from a phone or PC. The service requires no special client or software, and can be used with any phone or wireless operator. Subscribers call a number (712-432-6666) and transmit the digital data that is then handled by Utterz servers.
"It takes about a minute to set up an Utterz account, and a minute or two to establish a link to the specified Web page, so these blogs can be updated very quickly and easily," says Corke. "Say you are on vacation at the Grand Canyon or the Golden Gate Bridge you can offer your impressions of the location with a voice message and a photo, making it more personal."
Utterz (based on "utter": to speak, to be heard) launched last fall and has yet to turn a profit, but there is money to be made, says Bayer. "At this point we are more focused on customer acquisition, but over time we plan to add relevant advertising to the site and to offer premium services as well as business applications all of which will generate revenue," he says.
Under discussion are the addition of podcasting capabilities, enabling users to engage in a dialog, as well as applications for sales forces in the field, with people filing and sharing information with the home office after visiting a client.
As might be expected, the two men are bloggers themselves, but have little time for the activity while ironing out the wrinkles of starting a new business and tweaking the service. The number of Utterz subscribers to date is "many thousands," says Bayer, who prefers not to offer specifics.
"The challenge was to raise money and build a company team," he says. "We are learning from the feedback provided by our users. We have made it easy for people to hold conversations on our site, and we are talking with them about Utterz. Most of the feedback has been very positive."Bayer suggests that the blogging market has just scratched the surface, as more people post their lives online. "What we are doing is letting people create blogs that are more personal than written communications. You can see who I am and what I sound like. And in that sense you can get to know me better."
Michael Ford, MBA '04
Founder and President, Choose Renewables, LLC
BLOG: CHOOSE RENEWABLES BLOG [chooserenewables.blogspot.com]
Readers: Current and future customers
Purpose: Michael recently founded Choose Renewables, LLC (Grand Rapids, Mich.), a clean energy company and provider of Web-based clean energy content and commerce. "The company strives to promote a clean and independent energy future by enabling individuals, organizations, and communities to save energy, support clean energy, and generate their own renewable energy," Michael says. "We tend to focus the blog entries on simple actions individuals can take to improve the impact of their energy use."
Highlights: Michael's January post shows photos taken with a thermal imaging camera that pinpoint where heat is escaping from his own house ("embarrassing" is a key word in several captions), along with directions on how to fix these and similar heat-loss problems.
Yair 'Jay' Harel, MBA '04
Cofounder, President and VP of Marketing and Business Development at Tripio, an online speed-dating service
BLOG: Synapse Juice[www.yairharel.com]
Readers: Friends, family and colleagues about 100 total
Purpose: "I started my blog as an vehicle for expressing my thoughts and ideas on various subjects, so people can get to know me better," writes Yair. "It has yet to take on a specific focus area, and currently includes my general thoughts and musings."
Highlights: Yair posts about once a month. Topics include his thoughts about flying (he's taking a flying class) and his six-year-old daughter's experience of YouTube.
Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, MBA '78
Associate General Counsel at Lorillard Tobacco Company
BLOG: LEGAL LITERACY [www.legalliteracy.com]
Readers: business leaders and managers
Purpose: Hanna's blog is based on her book, The Business Guide to Legal Literacy: What Every Manager Should Know About the Law (Jossey-Bass, 2006). "The book explores how companies can build strong business cultures that allocate assets to manage their legal risk portfolio with the same degree of savvy they use to manage their operations," says Hanna. "The purpose of this blog is to make visible the links between business and law."
Highlights: As she describes it on her blog site, Hanna's blog "uses current events and stories to help you learn from other's mistakes and raise awareness of the legal environment of business how it can help you and how it can hurt you."
The degree to which the blogosphere has penetrated our world is apparent in the vast vocabulary that has grown up around it. In fact, Wikipedia lists more than 90 blog-related terms. A few fun examples:
vlog a video log
blook a blog-based book
moblog a blog produced on a mobile device like a cell phone or PDA
blawg a legal blog
plog a political blog
blogroll a list of favorite blogs featured in a sidebar on a blogger's site
celeblog a blog focused on the lives of one or more celebritities
momosphere the cybersphere of blogs written by mothers
Jim Lyons, MBA '81
Consultant, printer industry
BLOG: JIM LYONS OBSERVATIONS [www.jimlyonsobservations.com]
Readers: "My readership has grown from a handful, two years ago, to numbers into the multiple thousands a month, and is still growing," reports Jim, adding that it is "the most widely-read blog in the industry."
Purpose: After 24 years in the printer business at Hewlett Packard, Jim left his job to become a consultant, and also started to write a monthly column for the Hard Copy Observer, the leading industry newsletter. That publication is in hard-copy format only, and Jim wanted his columns to be available on the Internet, so "the blog began as a place to post the columns, and soon became much more than that, with an average of two to five posts a week on goings-on in the printer business." At times, the blog takes over entirely for example, in March he was guest blogger at an industry conference, so he "spent more than full-time either collecting information for my blog or crafting the posts themselves. And I'm still catching up on some news developments that happened outside the conference."
Highlights: Jim views his blog as both a networking and business development tool, calling it "a credibility and awareness builder for my consulting practice." He adds that it's also "invaluable as a personal journal of sorts a place to log interesting news tidbits and trends, and record a few of my thoughts about them. Then I have one place to go when I'm trying to dredge my memory. And that, in a sense, defines my readership as well people like me who want a place to go to find news and information that is having (or has had) an impact on the business."
Alex Patriquin, MBA '07
Senior Associate, Compete.com, a free Web analytics service
BLOG: THE COMPETE BLOG [blog.compete.com/author/apatriquin/]
Readers: "The Compete Blog has an active audience of 500,000 monthly visitors and is currently ranked #20 according to Ad Age," writes Alex, who is one of 20 contributing authors to the blog.
Purpose: Launched in November 2006 to gain visibility for Compete.com, the Compete Blog "highlights how people are using the Internet and where interesting, useful sites can be found," Alex says. "It is one of the premier blogs on the Web and has been recognized for its timely, entertaining, and fun commentary across a wide range of topics. The blog, in combination with free Web analytics on Compete.com, has huge visibility, and we get a number of leads from companies that interact with both. We also use the blog to develop clients and participate in the online marketing and Internet startup community."
Highlights: Alex has been quoted in The New York Times, USA Today, Wired and elsewhere as a direct result of his contributions to the blog. "It's a great platform and I'm happy to participate," he says.
Readers: Information technology management professionals and vendors
Purpose: Sumitro started his blog "to address the issues that CIOs and CTOs face on a daily basis: technology investment justification, contribution of technology to the total enterprise value, and other serious technology decision making," he writes. "The blog also provides insights into how information technology has a finance and strategy side to it that technologists ignore as they get caught up in the 'coolness' factor." Sumitro aims to "demystify the myths" around that coolness factor and promote the view of technology as a "business enabler and innovation catalyst."
Highlights: An occasional poster to his own blog, Sumitro's posts have picked up in frequency since he was invited in March to start blogging by CIOZone.com, a Web site for and about chief information officers and the issues they face.
Chia-Lin Simmons. MBA '02
Co-host, "On Digital Media"
Director, Business Development, AOL LLC (Time Warner)
BLOG: ON DIGITAL MEDIA [www.odmcast.com/podcast]
Readers/listeners: Chia-Lin characterizes this as an "insider" business podcast/blog covering the digital media and Internet industries. Regular listeners include the VP of new media at Hearst, VP for Morgan Stanley's Internet research, executives at Nokia and Sony Ericsson, and a lot more, she says.
Purpose: "'On Digital Media' is a podcast about the technology, creation, distribution, consumption, and monetization of digital media and its effects on traditional media and marketing," says Chia-Lin. "If it's part of the digital media ecosystem, you'll likely hear about it here." The Web site text offers a summary of what's covered in each podcast, including discussion topic areas, specific points and observations made by each of the hosts, and articles and reports cited (all hotlinked).
Highlights: The four knowledgeable, well-versed co-hosts voice strong opinions in this fast-paced forum, and Chia-Lin is no shrinking daisy. Her name is hotlinked to her Linked In profile, which includes a link to her own blog [chialinsimmons.blogspot.com], also focused on marketing, business development, and digital media.
Brad Treat, MBA '02
Founder & CEO, Mezmeriz, Inc., an emerging technology company that is developing a new television and display system based on research conducted at Cornell University
BLOG: MY CAMERA VIEW [bradtreat.blogspot.com]
Readers: Friends and acquaintances; nearly 12 readers a day, according to Google metrics
Purpose: Brad's blog is about his life as an entrepreneur. "I originally started the blog when I was running SightSpeed (a company I founded while at Johnson in 2001) as a way to post videos online," says Brad. "After I stopped working full time at SightSpeed, I kept the blog going with more of an emphasis on entrepreneurship as a lifestyle because so many people wonder 'What exactly does an entrepreneur do?'"
Highlights: Not straight text, Brad's blog is punctuated with photos, graphics, and logos.
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