This is another in a series of case studies from people I interviewed in 2005 about their blogging efforts. Now as we move to 2013, I find it interesting to look back at the early days of business blogging. I will only include cases from people who are still blogging now. These cases have not appeared on this blog before.
This is the one exception I am making to only covering writers who still blog. Carrie Guevara wrote the blog, Harmony St. Charles. When I interviewed her before Katrina it was titled, “The unofficial guide and commentary on living in New Orleans. Local issues, entertainment, family, leisure, shopping and more.” She had been a regular blog reader since about 2002 and was inspired to challenge herself to start one of her own. She created Harmony St. Charles (HSC) in February 2005.
It is carinval time in New Orleans so this is a very timely selection. Here is a painting I just did of the Phorty Phunny Phollows riding the St. Charles street car and throwing beads. There will be more coverage later.
When I visited New Orleans, my home town, in April 2005, I asked her for ideas on music and food places and she gave me some good ones. I have recently moved back and wish she was still writing about my new home.
After the storm she and her family relocated to Georgia. The last post on the blog was on December 4 and was a shopping list of NOLA merchants that were open and she encouraged people to use for Christmas presents. The tagline was changed to. “Bringing a Little New Orleans Flavors to Coastal Georgia. The Chronicle of Starting over After a Hurricane Tosses Your Life like a Salad." The blog is still accessible online.
When we spoke the blog had met and surpassed her original objectives. In the short time that she had been writing HSC, Carrie found an open outlet and audience for the publishing of her writing. She created a small source of income and a new way of connecting to others with interests similar to her own.
With this initial success, Carrie’s objectives were evolving. She wanted to grow her readership and possibly collaborate with other local writers to add a spectrum of views to HSC but as she said, “Nothing heavy, of course.” Carrie thought it was important for the spirit of HSC to stay as entertaining and politically tongue-in-cheek with a positive view of New Orleans. She was also interested in the income potential that writing a good blog can have. Carrie had good results so far using programs like Google Adsense and she was open to the idea of offering ad space on HSC in the future. She also planned to have HSC hosted within its own domain and use paid software like Movable Type. She was still researching that option when we spoke.
Carrie was learning about the development of blogging on a daily basis and as it grows she would do her best to grow HSC with it. She gained a great deal of self satisfaction from writing HSC and for now that was all that matters. Carrie continued to learn more about blogging every day and was excited to see where it would go from here.
Some of the biggest obstacles that she faced so far included writer's block and trying to fit something new into her already hectic schedule. These were her biggest hurdles when it came to starting HSC. The writer's block went away when she decided to write about something as inspiring as the city of New Orleans along with forcing herself to adhere to a regular schedule for posting. She read all of her news sources and blogs first thing in the morning then, she either posted before noon or early in the evening which were usually open spots in her day. Carrie thought about what she wanted to write about ahead of time, organized her ideas and made it a part of her regular schedule.
The major sources of content for HSC was her experiences and what she saw in New Orleans, which she put in her own words. She also clipped local news stories of interest using sites such as cox.net or rollover.com that had stories from the Times Picayune. The reader of her blog got an insider's view of what it was to live an everyday life in one of the most interesting and history rich cities in the country. Those wishing to visit or relocate to New Orleans could get a taste of what the city had to offer tourists and residents alike.
Carrie also had a very long list of blogs that she visited regularly. Many however were for pure fascination or as she put it, "geeky self indulgence". She thought that you had to be aware of what you're looking at and take it only for truth if it really is so. Carrie added: “Check facts, do further research and remember to keep in mind that you are reading someone's thoughts and opinions. Humans can be wrong and humans can lie. Keep your eyes and mind open.”
Carrie had this advice to have for others thinking about starting a blog. “Try the free software first you can always switch to pay hosting later. Visit blogs you like, comment when you have something of interest to say and respond in kind when others leave comments on your blog. Think before you publish, how open and exposed to you want to be? Be cautious of who's secrets you choose to share, it may come back to haunt you. Use common sense and find something to post about that people might actually want to read. If you do write, take at least some minor consideration for spelling and grammar. It shows you care and will make it easier on the eyes of others who visit your blog.”
The following paragraphs are an extended quote from her blog post, Is this a blog? Her words serve as an articulate summary of her blogging objectives and her blog policy.
"Harmony St. Charles" is the name that I've chosen to to use for this small publication that intends to highlight living in New Orleans. Found here will be postings about places to go, things to do with some light local politics thrown in for flavor. What you won't find are rants of anger toward any exes or politicos. I am also firm in my confidentiality ethics so no secrets will be spilled here. This may dissapoint muck seekers and turn away eyeballs but then again, who cares? Harmony St. Charles will either gain an audience or not. The unknown is what makes the whole experiment worthwhile.
Routinely, I keep up with all sorts of blogs that range from professional, educational, entertaining to the sometimes overtly personal and often nearly slanderous. I have read a surprising number of blogs about employees engaged in corporate sabbatoge, or just plain ignorance to the rules of giving out too much inside information, and then being left to question "why" after the pink slip comes. There are a potpurri of blogs to be found from Democrats, angry, amibivalent or rational. The same wide range goes for Republicans, femenists, teenagers, gay, straight, domestic and the lovelorn. The wealth of subject matter to choose from appears paractically endless.
Happily I have also chanced upon many blogs by people who, while there is a
personal spin present to the content written, the point of the blog is focused
on publishing information for others to learn from. From high tech, hobbycraft
to independent and objective journalism, a wealth useful knowledge is shared
faster than ever before. That is the spirit that I intend to convey here.
Of course that does not make me immune against the "car crash " effect. That normal human rubbernecking reaction is part of what feeds darker areas of the blogosphere. There are blogs about affairs, longing, obsession, divorce, eating disorders, depression and many other just down right unique genres of thought. These types of blogs seem to have a theraputic effect for the writer as well as those with similar issues who can find a sense of support within. Enlightening or shocking, the choice of subject matter is as individual as the author.
I also read very cool blogs by innovative people who can see ahead and are shining a light on what use blogging can be to businesses big and small. There is of course an element of risk involved in revealing such a personal side to a company's inner workings. This should be calculated and decided on with logic and serious common sense. If you go the maverick route and decide to take matters into your own hands then be prepared for the consequences. If you are a company that is using the excitement behind blogging soley as a means to promote your product or service, I say go for it. Just use the platform wisely and not just as another consumer smokescreen for competition-bashing. If you commit words online for all to see then don't get fussy when competitors or ther advesaries throw what you say back at you in just as public a forum.
To those who have chosen to use blogging as an arena to exact some sort of vindication on whoever you view as causing offense, you might want to become familliar with words like slander and defamation of character. This is coming from someone who believes in no bend in freedom of speech. It is just historically logical that some very smart lawyer somewhere will figure out a few loopholes. Then there will be a legal maelstrom that may very well shake the structure of blogging irrecovably. Going too far is just that, too far."
I loved her writing about New Orleans miss it more now that I live here.