The bloggerview of this week is Stephanie Booth, the author of Climb to the Stars. Stephanie lives in Lausanne, Switzerland with her cat Bagha. She works as a freelance blogging consultant, and is basically interested in anything that has to do with people and the internet. Please enjoy her answers.
1. When did you start blogging? What were the main reasons that take you start blogging?
Stephanie Booth (S.B.): I started blogging in July 2000, by accident (http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2000/07/13/weblog-open/). I had been seeing “Powered by Blogger” badges on various sites and was curious. I opened my browser, typed “blogger.com” and created an account. I had no understanding of what blogging was at that time or what it could be useful for. Once I had created my account, I slowly started understanding what it did (“oh, this will FTP stuff to my site for me and format it nicely, neat”) and thought I would try adding this new “toy” to my site.
2. What were your reasons to christen your blog as you did?
S.B.: “Climb to the Stars” is actually a name which is a bit older than the blog. S.B.: I came up with it in February 1999, while on exile in my chalet for a week. I wanted some punchy names for e-mail addresses which would fit in with a couple of alternate nicknames I had found for myself (my online world at that time was an Indian chatroom). The character limit for OperaMail, which I was using at the time, was 15 characters, so it had to fit in there.
I came up with two: “QueenOfTheNight” for Rani, and “ClimbToTheStars” for Tara — somehow, the latter stuck.
At first, my blog wasn’t called “Climb to the Stars”, but “Reach for the Stars… or better, start climbing” was a kind of tagline to it (http://old.climbtothestars.org/hist/version2/home.php), and before the weblog occupied the home page of the site, a poem about stars and climbing lived there (http://climbtothestars.org/writing/climbpoem).
When I got my own domain name in January 2001, I had a long think about it, and decided that climbtothestars.org was the best fit. And thus, the name for my weblog was finalised.
3. Do you have any specific goals or objectives you want to achieve with your blog? What are they?
S.B.: My blog is mainly a writing space for me. I’ve always liked writing, my head has always been full of ideas and thoughts, and sticking them in a shared space hopefully sometimes allow other people to benefit from them. I like that it allows me to connect with people. Other than that, I don’t really have any specific goals for it.
4. In your opinion, what role could blogs play in the future, for instance at companies or at schools?
S.B.: I think blogs are a great tool for any situation where there is an advantage in allowing easy unmediated publication and opening the door to dialog.
Blogs are already being used in companies and schools. As an internal communication tool, as an external communication channel, to follow the development of a project, an event, or a learning process. They are a place where snippets of knowledge can easily be stored, disseminated and retrieved.
Of course, all this is not something new that blogs have brought. The main “power” at work here is the internet — and blogs are today one of the most practical ways of publishing stuff and starting conversations.
Maybe one thing that the blog as such brings us is the opportunity for individuals to attract others who share similar interests or thoughts, particularly under the shape of author-blogs (ie, blogs owned by an individual, rather than blogs primarily on a certain topic, or group-blogs). In that way, they are a very powerful networking tool.
5. What do you think will be the future of blogs over the next couple of years?
S.B.: I wouldn’t be surprised if blogs as such disappear, just like the “homepage” disappeared. By saying that, I don’t mean that they are a fad, but rather, that it’s the principles driving them (ease of publication, two-way communication, the efficiency of word-of-mouth multiplied because conversations happen in public) which are important. Blogs are today’s tool for that, but even now, there are other types of sites which are driven by the same principles (think “social software”).
I do think that blogs (or blog-like means of publication) are going to become more and more common and normal.
6. How many feeds do you have on your news aggregator? What news aggregator do you use? Why?
S.B.: I’m not sure how many exactly (I’m offline right now), but probably 40 or so. I’m not a very good blog reader, actually. Every now and again I go on a reading binge, but there are very few bloggers which I follow religiously (and even them are regularly abandoned for weeks at a time).
I use Google Reader because I find the interface pleasant to use, and it has this great “shared items” feature which allows me to create a kind of mashup-like blog of posts I liked.
7. What do you think about RSS? What role do you think RSS can play in future, for instance in the relation between government and citizens?
S.B.: RSS/atom and syndication are a form of hope in the age of information overload. I don’t have any strong opinions or ideas about RSS, apart from the fact that it’s great, and I think that it’s a really important tool for anybody who is interested in what’s happening in the land of blogs and time-driven publication.
8. What do you think is the most important thing happening in the Web, now? Why?
S.B.: The most important thing happening on the web now has been happening for some time now — it’s the web. I mean, it’s the networking, it’s the possibility for “everybody” to have a voice out there, the redistribution of communicating power (which used to lie in the hands of the media, big corporations, professional writers, important politicians…), the chance for each of us to find an audience, whether big or small.
I think that the internet promised us democratisation of public speech. Blogs are the tool which has made the promise true.
9. Beside blogs, do use other social software, like Flickr, Del.icio.us, Digg, LinkedIn, Jaiku or any other?
S.B.: Flickr, Del.icio.us, not Digg, LinkedIn, Jaiku, Twitter, Upcoming.org, Last.fm, coComment of course, and probably a bunch of others. I’m really not a fan of Digg-like popularity/rating systems.
10. What do you expect from LIFT 2007?
S.B.: I expect to have a nice time, see old friends and make new ones, discover exciting stuff and listen to thought-provoking talks. Last year, Lift gave me the initial boost that brought me to become a full-time social software/blog consultant. I hope Lift 2007 will lift me too!
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