Blog Soldiers - Loudmouthman
Nik Butler aka Loudmouthman lives in Sussex and helps companies fire-fight Internet and software projects. He helps with PCI compliance, testing website vulnerabilities and occasionally upgrading a printer driver if he is forced to. He is married with two children, no pets, two cars and far too many computers and consoles to be healthy. Secrets are his business, keeping them for you or finding them from others. If you have a problem and no one else can help, if you can find him then maybe you can hire The Loudmouthman. Check out his blog here.
What made you want to start writing a blog?
Jono Bacon called me up one day and said, "Nik, I would really like it if you could help with forming the Ubuntu Loco UK team, but to do this you really should be blogging and I think you would be good at it". Well, one out of two wasn't bad and whilst I am not involved in the Ubuntu community, I kept up the blogging and the pace of ideas. Lately however, the blogging has been a bit quiet, thanks to twitter and another change in direction.
Had you read many blogs prior to writing your own?
Back then blogs were twitter and as a place for conversation across the whole web I was using RSS readers and various tools to keep up to date. Slashdot had already begun the shark jump and Digg was fresh on the scene and proving relevant.
What do you think makes a good blog?
It's easier to ask, Do you like Marmite? Anyone who tells you what makes a good blog should immediately be ignored and shunned. The whole internet shows there are no good tastes or bad tastes, just preferences. Sure a site and a blog can be popular, but is it popular because it is good or because people like it? I think I might have dodged that question!
You include brief book reviews in your blog. How do you approach writing a concise review?
I imagine I am talking to a friend down at the coffee shop and I write from that viewpoint. Book reviews are like answering what makes a good blog. I enjoy pulpy military sci-fi like Andy Remic's Combat K novels or wordy, brain-draining pieces like Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. I like to know what something is 'a bit like' so I can frame the preference for a story and in doing so I tend to write in terms of a book being 'a bit like' something you're familiar with. Then again I could be utterly, utterly wrong.
You have recently been very outspoken in opposition to the Digital Economy Bill, both in your blog and on twitter. For people who might not be aware of the bill, what is it and why do you oppose it?
The Digital Economy Act (chapter 24, 2010) is awaiting Royal Assent. It is an act that incorporates a number of procedures which the Government (outgoing and incoming) felt needed to be progressed at speed and without too much oversight. The act sets out that progress must be made in a number of areas such as ITV and Ch4 licensing, the Digital Radio crossover, video game ratings, domain name registries in the UK and copyright infringement.
Much of the issue with the bill's passing were the areas detailing copyright infringement. It sets out a requirement for OFCOM to reduce copyright theft (online piracy) by 70%. It provides a framework where an infringed owner of copyright may apply to a communication provider (otherwise known to us as an ISP) for information about a subscriber regarding (and these words are in the bill) an apparent infringement of copyright.
Why is the act a bad idea? The supporters make some wild claims about the 'apparent' loss of revenue and jobs caused by piracy. None of these claims have ever clearly defined how you would calculate and identify such loss. The copyright infringed parties can apply for subscribers to be disconnected from the web after a number of notifications have been sent. They are also entitled to seek damages for loss of revenue. It is also possible that a copyright infringed group may apply to an ISP to have a website blocked. I may be preaching to the converted when I point out that any measures used to identify 'apparent' copyright theft can be considered technically poor and open to abuse.
The Digital Economy Act has been passed with a very poor understanding of copyright in the 21st century. There are no measures to address the lack of Fair Use policy in the UK (we have Fair Dealing but its not even close to Fair Use). The bill does nothing to protect individual copyright holders or consumers. In short the bill, which is now an act of parliament, needs to be radically amended, corrected and if possible repealed.
On your blog you champion the use of social networking for business purposes. Do you think it is the future of marketing?
Well I was really hoping that Capes and Masks would be the future of Internet marketing but ever since that film from Disney all I hear is "No Capes!"
I believe people buy from people: people enjoy products, content and ideas that have been recommended to them by people they agree with. I have never understood how Search Engine Optimisation became so powerful and mesmerizing to businesses. In SEO you spend a large amount of time getting content from one machine to be useful and measured for another machine, for the purpose of a final machine to match an inquiry with a database. It's damned inhuman if you ask me, but everyone buys it and I am just the kid shouting about a naked emperor that no one wants to listen to. When social networks came along a few years back, I wrote an article about Social Network Optimisation and shared it with a few people. Turned out they liked it and they shared it and suddenly people are asking my opinion about social networking for business.
Marketing has always sought to find the group most interested in hearing the message as opposed to Sales, which has sought to tell the group why they want to be interested in the message. Social networks are the chance for Marketing to hear why the group was asking about a message in the first place.
What do you think are examples of social network marketing done well and badly?
Well, on twitter look for @ForbiddenPlanet and @EbuyerDotCom for a demonstration of the most human and people-experienced interaction of Marketing and the community. They create conversations around events and around blogs and products that other people want to share. If you want examples of what I consider to be bad (see previous statements for my position on tastes) then read my Social Media Raspberry list on my own twitter profile.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a blog?
Use Wordpress. Use Scribefire, Delicious, Stumbleupon and Google Reader. Bookmark the fun and snap the moment. Write when you're happy, write when you're sad and write when you want to. If you're writing or creating to make other people happy then do it as long as it makes you happy. I think if you are going to choose to do something then the most important and necessary rule is "have fun".
Which blogs do you read yourself?
I keep an eye on www.sizemore.co.uk www.whatleydude.com www.broadstuff.com www.scobleizer.com www.boingboing.com www.lifehacker.com (actually just come look at my shared items on my Google Feed available through my blog.)