What we can learn from Web 2.0 success from blogs4God’s mistakes

Understanding changing trends in sociological activities is a key to understanding how users will interact with your systems. Which is why pastors are as concerned with getting their arms around the impact of the emerging church as webmasters are about Web 2.0. In this post I briefly explore some of experiences with blogs4God as a minor insight into both.

Here’s how blogs4God got started: back in April of 2002 I saw Martin Roth, a writer, getting overwhelmed by having to maintain by hand a growing list of links of Christian bloggers. Being a technologist, I offered to establish a Yahoo-like directory mechanism which he could use to maintain the list. Instead, and quite unexpectedly, he handed me the list as the maintenance of it was eating into his writing time.

My first mistake wasn’t in taking over the list, but rather not then understanding the then infant impact Web 2.0 would have on such “old school” information delivery models such as a Yahoo-like directory. I should have realized that when in 2004 I nicely requested registrants to imbed information about their posts into their HTML markup, that I should have instead insisted that no RSS meant no listing – a policy we eventually took on – but didn’t completely leverage until 2005.

The second mistake was in software selection – I knew spammers were out there but was entirely unaware of just how opportunistic they would become as blogging technology grew in efficiency and popularity. Their abuse of the old-school Yahoo-like directory was on a volume and scale that astounded me – the point of having to change IP addresses and servers and eventually shutting down the site to get their robots from costing me money out-of-pocket by blasting my bandwidth well past its monthly allocation.

The third thing that caused blogs4God “the original” to stumble was some infighting among some (not all) of the moderators. I didn’t start it, nor did I want it – but managing strong personalities with strong opinions was a responsibility I took on when I asked such individuals to join the team. Would I, could I have done some things differently? I doubt it – in fact in retrospect, I should have realized that in accommodating some of the moderators and an online community of their socio/political supporters – that a more politically neutral, if not correct, blogs4God would create a soggy milk-toast that was only attractive to neophyte naval gazers somehow magically thinking that a link on blogs4God’s directory would magically drive in hits; when all that was needed on their part was some compelling content.

So how does all this play into the re-establishment of blogs4God – and more importantly – the website of your church, charity and/or ministry’s website? Let’s do this by looking at the points of an enumerated screenshot of the new blogs4God system I’m working on – points built around better open source applications that take into account the success of several Web 2.0 online entities.
First, as a picture is worth 1000 words, let’s talk about:

screenshot of the upcoming re-release of blogs4God

  1. A stronger ‘brand’ identity: Learn from examples such as BlinkList whom provide easy to see and identify imagery and taggery that supports both the bloggers inputting articles, as well as bloggers consuming articles
  2. Hand the keys of control over to the community: Learn from examples such as del.icio.us who allow the blogging community, in this case the Christian blogging social network, to determine what they want representing them in terms of outstanding Christian content
  3. Advertising: Learn from networks such as Feedmarker whom support their operational costs through adSense
  4. Story-level submissions: Learn from examples such as Digg that illuminates what’s hot and what’s not in a given category rather than provision equal aggregation of both the mediocre and the magnificent
  5. More user-centric services: Learn from projects such as Drupal/CivicSpace, that would encourage and strengthen membership by sharing sign-in services and/or providing higher levels of personalization
  6. Encourage raging debate: Learn from community contributed content-rich sites such as the WikiPedia that encourage debate, discussion and dialog over at story-level content
  7. Better data delivery – Learn from blog delivery experts such a Technorati whom provide a wide-variety of standards to slice-n-dice data
  8. Personalization: Learn from winners such as Google by leveraging ongoing technological improvements in areas such as personalization by cleaning things up with a little bit-o-Ajax.

So here’s my point for your church, charity, community and/or other ministry website:

Change happens, learn to recognize it, adapt to it, and most importantly leverage it,  accordingly; and hence the new category on this webite entitled ‘Disruptive Innovation.’