SXSW panel snippets – ‘HOWTO: 149 Surprising Ways to Turbocharge Your Blog With Credibility!’

Merlin Mann (43 Folders, You Look Nice Today)
John Gruber (Daring Fireball)

Abstract: John Gruber ( and Merlin Mann ( discuss the current state of blogging as a medium for creative expression, weighing the opportunities and challenges of building a thoughtful online presence in a world where everybody owns a printing press. They’ll consider the ascendance of Digg-friendly “problogs” and debate the subtler pleasures of careful writing that reaches smaller, but potentially less “profitable” audiences.

Acknowledging the silliness of their title, Merlin and John did a great job of being entertaining whilst also being interesting and useful. Well worth listening to the podcast of this one, whenever it comes out.


  • Mann: Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ talks about ‘the ideal reader’. Others call it ‘the first reader’. Have a picture in your head, the face in the monitor. Who are you writing for?
  • Mann: I think social media is important enough to take seriously. Social media is not about what you have to say, it’s about having the tolerance to cope with what people say to you. It’s a giant set of extremely sharp knives. You can use it for good or for ill.
  • Mann: How do you know you should start a blog? Because people keep telling you to shut up. You just won’t shut up about a subject. “You love the Cowboys so much? Either gay marry them, or start a blog”. It’s OK to have a strong voice about something. The opportunities are not through the ads, they’re through being awesome at what you do. Ancillary revenue streams and opportunities …
  • Gruber: human attention is valuable and limited. There’s nothing you can do to give yourself more attention in a day. “You can’t pay your rent with attention … but it has value. You’d be surprised at what you can do with it when it builds up.”
  • Mann: Don’t have a blog about star wars, have a blog about Jawas
    in fact, have a blog about that one Jawa who is only the scene for a minute. It’s going to be so much easier for you to dominate.
  • When writing, include not just what happened, but what does it mean, what do you think about it. There’s a ton of people who can tell you something happened.
  • Gruber: relating Mann’s tips for success:
    1. Give away more stuff than you think is sensible, and make it easy to get to.
    2. Focus on diverse rev streams and always be looking for new ones
    3. Don’t do stuff that seems profitable but potentially messes up the reasons people like you

Update: you can listen to the session on 43 Folders and read what John has to say about it too.