While everyone talks about content being king, there is no doubt that design and aesthetics are a big part of what makes an audience sit up and take notice of a blog. Designers are often the unsung heroes of the blogosphere.
One Design Works for Millions of Blogs
Last year, we made our first big step in helping designers who use Six Apart platforms by standardizing the layout and structure of templates across all three of our products, Movable Type, TypePad and LiveJournal. With support for this new standard template, designers now have one set of guidelines to follow to reach the biggest possible audience. Instead of learning the details of one particular system, you can focus on what you do best: Creating beautiful, useful designs.
Since the debut of the standard templates last August, the total audience that can be reached with a single design has expanded to include over ten million blogs.
Introducing The Style Contest
In order to demonstrate the benefits of these new styles in a real and practical way, we decided to have a design contest. At the same time, three other driven and talented individuals from our community — Arvind Satyanarayan, Elise Bauer and Jesse Gardner — had the same exact idea.
So we joined forces and today are announcing the fruits of that labor: The Style Contest for Movable Type, TypePad and LiveJournal has launched! Designers: Start your browsers!
Design for millions of blogs. Or just make a few thousand bucks
Sponsored by Six Apart, Adobe and StyleMaster, this contest features over $17,000 in prizes, which includes $10,000 in cash to the Grand Prize and category winners as well as other great prizes. What's more, every qualified entrant gets discounts on some awesome in-demand design products.
So whether you are a designer or someone who loves a great design, The Style Contest is for you.
First, we'd like to thank all of you who use TypePad, Movable Type and LiveJournal. We at Six Apart recognize that design helps tell your readers who you are, and we want to make sure our blogs are as attractive and pleasing as our customers.
We are extremely happy and thankful to have our talented and creative judges on our team. In selecting them, we know that we've chosen people who not only understand design at a visceral level but are people who are well-respected and well-known in their field. They know their stuff.
All of us at Six Apart also want to thank and recognize The Style Contest team — Arvind, Jesse and Elise — for their Herculean efforts in making this contest a reality. They've already put in hundreds of hours in making sure this was the contest was the best it could be. Thanks to those efforts, we're sure we'll be seeing some exciting and beautiful designs.
And finally, we'd like to acknowledge you, the designers. Without you we would all still be using Comic Sans, technicolor horizontal rules, animated under construction gifs and blink tags. We thank you for rescuing us from that visual hell. This contest is for you. We can't wait to see what you come up with.
Tonight we launched TypePad Widgets, or as they are known on the street, TypePad Bling. From the very early days of TypePad, we imagined this sort of widget functionality -- the roots are evident in the way modules are handled in TypePad's design managment -- built into the service. It's exciting to see that the integration is finally here and that we've already got over thirty partners providing and enabling their unique services to our users. There's a lot more to come and we want to hear from others with widgets to integrate. (See the FAQ if you're interested in creating a TypePad Widget.)
As much as the term Web 2.0 is loosely thrown around, I believe strongly that the most significant characteristic of this era of development is the openess that is enabled by APIs. It's about sharing information and data and having services work well together.
Thanks go out to the TypePad team for making this happen as well as all our partners who made their widgets available for release. Our thanks, as always, to our customers for their continued suggestions and inspiration.
As part of our recent launch of our Blogging Solutions for Business, we're holding a series of Blogging for Business Seminars in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. In addition to speaking about the tools that we've developed that help businesses get blogging, we will be "hosting a number of speakers to talk about business blogging, present use cases from local industries, demonstrate blogging technologies and give attendees to engage us in a question and answer session." If you're interested in attending, simply fill out the short inquiry form.
Since I haven't posted in quite a while, I figured I should open with a little joke. Sure, I could have started with a lofty introduction about writer's block and the overwhelming expectation to deliver interesting content after such a lapse, but the Yahoo/Cruise joke works too. Life has been busy at Six Apart since my last post (in December!). I've been on the road a lot, speaking about blogs and Six Apart. Additionally, I've had the opportunity to do a lot more design work than I usually do, which is a nice change.
The company continues to grow, as the press we've received indicates. This month we closed a $12 million dollar financing round from Focus Ventures, Intel Capital and August Capital, which we believe will allow us to do a lot of the stuff that we've talked about in the past -- namely creating the sort of service that the proverbial mother will actually want to use. It's probably not a surprise that we've worked really hard to stay independent and grow. We've entered another new stage of the company and it feels good.
Another exciting development is Six Apart's acquisition of SplashBlog. Mobile blogging has always been incredibly important to us -- that's one of the reasons we took our initial funding out of Japan and we've worked closely with partners such as Nokia. With SplashBlog, we got a great team and great line of products. The strength of SplashBlog was further illustrated by the great feedback from webloggers. Look for better integration of mobile applications and our products in the near future.
So what have I've been personally been up to? I had the pleasure to participate and speak at TED 2006 which was really quite the best conference I have attended. Partly because I was able to speak about something I'm so passionate about: the personal side of blogging and why it will change the way we record our lives. I had people such as Al Gore and Tony Robbins tell me that they enjoyed my talk (and of course I documented meeting them)!
Equally exciting were the non-celebrities who came up to me after my talk and told me that they never considered starting a blog before hearing my talk. Or even better, a blogger who writes about politics and who never liked reading personal blogs before. He told me he actually changed his mind because of the examples I presented and the stories that they told.
Out of all the people at TED, the person that was most memorable was Julia Sweeney. She was just so nice in person and awesome onstage as she performed an excerpt from her one-woman show. I embarrassingly told her that I wanted to be her best friend -- she made that much of an impression on me. And, she has a great blog that she's maintained for years!
Speaking aside, I mentioned I've been doing some more design work -- specifically for Comet. Comet entered Alpha testing last month and we've been doing quick iterations based on our testers' experiences. I don't want to talk too much about it until we have something substantial to show the general public, but we've been very happy with the results so far. I've been posting a lot there, so one day you'll be able to see that I really do maintain a frequently updated blog. I said I'm all about personal blogging.
I fear that this post is becoming an epic, so on that note, I will save the rest of my updates for subsequent posts.
I’m at Microsoft’s Mix06 event today; If you’re here, be sure to catch up with us in Ballroom C at 3:00pm this afternoon for the session on Extending Your Experience. We’ll be showing off some cool stuff about Movable Type Enterprise, as well as demonstrating some of the lessons we’ve learned about making business software that people actually want to use.
It’s Bill Gates!
Right now, though, it’s Bill Gates’ keynote that’s got everyone’s rapt attention. It’s kind of surprising, since sadly it doesn’t seem like Justin Timberlake is joining Bill onstage this time. That disappointment aside, there’s some good news:Amidst the typical Microsoft-speak (if we all had a nickel for each time the word “rich” or “experience” was used, we’d be… Bill Gates) there’s actually some really interesting new things coming from Microsoft. All of us who’ve been frustrated in the past four or five years by Internet Explorer have a lot to look forward to, with improvements around both standards support as well as feeds. There’s tons more that Microsoft and everybody else will be showing off, that’ll no doubt be covered well on the Virtual Mix site.
Like peanut butter and chocolate
Overall, though, the most interesting thing about the Mix event is that it’s one of the few times that the world of developers and consultants who work primarily with Microsoft technologies like .NET and Visual Studio get to interact with folks who live in the LAMP/Dynamic scripting-heavy Web 2.0 world. Basically, Windows people don’t always hang out with web people in the real world, a lot of times. That means there’s a lot of good ideas that probably don’t get shared. Hopefully this is a good way to help fix that.
At Six Apart, we’ve got our feet pretty firmly planted in both camps, from the open source goodness of LiveJournal to the cool Windows Mobile stuff that our SplashBlog team works on. So it’s nice to be around a crowd that appreciates both. There will undoubtedly be lots of blogging about the event over the next few days, but so far, it’s a good start at doing a surprisingly different kind of conference for Microsoft.
It has been about a week since I returned from Oreilly’s eTech Conference in San Diego. I figured now is a good a time as any to give a brief round up of the conference for those that weren’t in attendance. Well, it’s not so much a “round up” as it is a mix of my personal rants and raves.
As you probably know, Movable Type is a powerful application, and sometimes we can't even anticipate all the clever ways that the community comes up with to create blogs or publish websites. Given all the options available, it's inevitable that sometimes you might have a question or a problem that isn't addressed in the user manual or the knowledge base.
In fact, most of us who work on Movable Type get questions from friends, family, and even complete strangers about the clever or crazy things they want to do. Sometimes, it's just looking for help in the fight against comment spam. Other times it's an email to our ProNet mailing list about a potential bug or server error. And if you're like us, sometimes you just end up tearing your hair out because of a silly mistake that you won't catch until the moment you've asked someone else to help you.
Whatever the case, we've got a way to help. The best option for if you're having problems is to file a support ticket with our support team. Since most people have never seen what the process looks like, we thought we'd give you a tour.
Technical support packages for Movable Type have been around for a few years now. If you have a paid license for Movable Type and either a problem or a question that a user manual and knowledge base search doesn't satisfy, don't be shy about using the ticket system.
Filing a help ticket
Once logged in, you will see a box to the right labelled "Help & Support" (as shown at the top of this article) with links to the knowledge base and the ticket system. Simply click on the "Open a new ticket" link and you're ready to submit your help request. (screenshot). (You might want to take a look at the always-helpful support ticket guidelines before filing a ticket.)
Once you submit a ticket to our tech support team, you will be shown a listing of all of your open tickets, the date on which they were created and their current status which will either "Awaiting Staff response" or "Awaiting User response".
From there you can click on any ticket in order to see the details of that ticket (screenshot) including any response from our technical support team. From there you can also close tickets and view your previously closed ticket (screenshot).
Supporting the Community
We're very proud of our support offerings at Six Apart because you've told us often how much you appreciate being able to get your problems solved or your questions answered quickly by professionals instead of having to dig around on the web. As far as we're concerned, if you spend more time blogging than you do working on your blog software, we've done our jobs.
If you'd like to take advantage of our technical support offering but don't have a paid license yet, we have an array of them for individuals, commerical use, schools and non-profit organizations. As always, if you have any trouble finding the right license, don't hesistate to drop us a line and we'll help you with something that fits your needs.
We're proud to be participating in the Blog Business Summit next week, not just because it's an event focused on business blogs, but because the advice and attention of the summit is all practical and useful for businesses today.
For example, a lot of attention's been paid to some of the negative scare stories that can arise from companies communicating poorly with bloggers. But in the Summit blog, Teresa Valdez Klein's advice for FedEx gave the company practical tips on how to benefit from engaging the blogosphere.
It's exactly that sort of useful, focused, and productive business blogging that we're hoping to encourage by participating in the conversation. We hope you'll join us, and to make it easier, we've been able to arrange a discount for the Professional Network community. Sign up using code
PRNTLA6 and save $50 on your registration fees. You'll want to hurry up-- time and space are running out as the event gets closer!
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need to be convinced that business blogs have value. But most companies don’t yet know that blogs are a simple, powerful tool that can help improve communications with employees, partners, customers, and potential customers. We want to help all businesses take advantage of blogs.
Starting today, we’re announcing our Blogging Solutions for Business, an ongoing effort to help businesses of all sizes succeed with blogs. We’re providing our own experiences, recommendations, expertise, and most of all our blogging platforms. We already help power more business blogs around the world than anyone else, and now we’re annnouncing new tools that reflect everything we’ve learned:
- Blogs are a powerful communication tool for businesses
- Companies don’t have to be afraid of blogs or bloggers: It’s safe to get started
- Adding blogs to your existing set of tools can be evolutionary, not revolutionary
- Tools that succeed in business, such as email, IM and blogs, work because people actually enjoy using them
Of course, it’s not just these ideas that will help companies. We also have a range of products and services that simplify creation, management, and maintenance of business blogs.
You can sign up for TypePad Business Class and be up and running without having to know anything about software. Business Class is a new level of service that builds on the features of the TypePad platform and adds additional storage and bandwidth, better administration tools, priority support from our team of experts, and an option for a service level agreement. But it’s not just the features that make TypePad Business Class stand out. It’s the many companies in the media and marketing industries that have really shown how easy it is to get up and running with a great business blog.
And we’ve also announced Movable Type Enterprise. Available now in Japan, the new product builds on the features that have made Movable Type the most popular business blogging platform, and the Enterprise edition offers even more ways to integrate with the tools and processes your organization is already using. From Oracle 10g database support to LDAP integration to improvements in workflow and administration, it’s a big step forward for larger organizations and intranet deployments that want to get the most out of blogging.
The bottom line? The ability for companies to communicate easily to the audiences that matter using blogs isn’t just something we talk about here at Six Apart, it’s how we’ve built our own business. We believe in business blogging, and we want to make it as easy and rewarding as possible. Most of all, we can’t wait to see how the next wave of businesses and enterprises makes smart use of blogs.