Sunday, February 18, 2007

blogger interview #3 - John Bell

John Bell is the blogger behind Digital Influence Mapping Project. He also happens to be my boss (and mentor and friend). He's been on the road in Asia for the past couple of weeks and, judging by this interview, he's feeling pretty content — or there's something in the tea. You should note that this is the first time the name of "the agency" has been mentioned. We'll let it slide this time . . .

What are you trying to do with Digital Influence Mapping Project? Has that changed at all since you started the blog in May 2005?

I began the Digital Influence Mapping Project almost 2 years ago. I set out to explore how we are all influenced in new ways via social media and word of mouth online — and also how I am influenced. There are so many great people and so much interesting content that affects me in some way and I knew that others feel the same way. I wanted to understand how people and “media” touched me. I am still doing this. One thing I will do soon, however, is focus on 3-4 categories tops and then let tags access more specific content. I have discovered, mostly through writing, that there are more specific topics that I interested in.

Where did the name come from? Can you remember any other names you considered?

My work and my life are intertwined and it’s all one big, never-ending “project” (or so I hope). The ‘Digital Influence’ part came from the acknowledgment that I am influenced in new, complex ways. And I love maps: I have books on maps, I am writing something that is all about maps (fiction). So, I liked the idea of cartography of an evolving landscape.

Go back in your archives and look at the first post you wrote on the blog. What did you write about? Does it make you cringe, laugh, gush with pride or feel a strong urge to hit "delete"? None of the above? Then, how does it make you feel?

When I read the first post, I am very satisfied. It describes what I was after and came from a very genuine place. I try to hold onto that no matter how naïve it may seem to people.

Because Digital Influence Mapping Project is primarily a professional blog, do you ever find yourself holding back or censoring yourself?

This blog is meant to be focused. I talk about the things that interest me and may interest peers and colleagues. I do not talk about clients unless it's okay with them. I am, by nature, not snarky so there’s not much to censor in that category. I am conscious of Ogilvy’s business interests and will not consciously go against it in my blog.

What led you to start your personal blog, John Bell's Other Blog?

My Other Blog is all about the things that I am a fan of. The experience of really loving something or somebody is just tremendously positive. I started it to try out our friend’s (Six Apart's) new platform and to have something refreshing. I have to say, writing about Nick Cave or Richard Ford always leaves me with a good feeling.

Where do you write most of your posts (try to be specific)? What's your favorite place or time of day to post?

I write a lot of posts in my office at home. My office is a small little room that overlooks our backyard. There’s no door so the kids are always interrupting. I have also learned to write on airplanes which has turned into my only uninterrupted work-time these days.

Do you have a favorite post that you have written?

Two of my favorite posts include the one reviewing Mom communities. I don’t know why but I love mom bloggers (my wife does not blog). When I reviewed all those sites several of their founders reached out to me. I offered them some advice because I really do wish them a ton of success. Moms have long exerted their power via commerce, but this new wave of mom bloggers has really amplified women’s voices and given them a new power. One even asked me to join an advisory board which is really flattering. The other post was the Social Media Score. I was a bit exasperated with all the energy I was putting in with clients — some of whom ultimately weren’t ready to do anything, even listen, with social media. I developed that system in a very fast writing session and it still seems good to me.

Do you have any recommendations for blogs I -- or my readers -- should check out?

I love so many blogs. A few that come to mind quickly – Birdie Jaworski’s blogs. She has a new one called La Pajaro that is separate from her Avon work. I am just blown away by her writing and emotion. There are several posts of hers that make me cry – mostly joyful tears. I love China Web 2.0 Review. I spent time with Tangos Chan, the principle writer and founder in Beijing and he’s super great. He works a full time job at a search firm and then writes all this great coverage at night.

Is there a blog out there for which you have blog envy?

There are a lot of blogs I admire out there. I don’t think I have blog envy though. The great thing about blogs is that I can be truly who I am. I am old enough that I have to be satisfied with myself versus pining away to be someone else.

Besides the legendary Birdie Jaworski, have you met any of your favorite bloggers in person?

I am writing this on my way to Singapore to meet 4 outstanding bloggers including ChubbyHubby who is a tremendous food blogger and Wendy or Xiaxue who is probably so much more than I can handle. I met a few bloggers in Beijing. In Hong Kong, I did a meetup with 6 or so bloggers including the amazing Sidekick who seemed to know everybody. I make a point of meeting up with bloggers wherever I go.

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