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Trine-Maria Kristensen

Bloggers on Blogging, February 2007

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Trine-Maria Kristensen's blog is called Hovedetpaabloggen, which translates as "Head on the Block"—In Danish, to lay one's head on the block is "to dare". She is the founder and manager of Social Square—a small startup that specializes in helping organizations understand and use social media—and the author of a new book, Weblogs.

Trine-Maria, 35, has a degree in Social Science from Roskilde University. Since graduating, she has studied teaching methods and usability at the Danish IT University in Copenhagen. Prior to Social Square, she founded a market research group and was the head of marketing in a life insurance company. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband.

What is the first weblog you read?

I think it was Thomas Madsen-Mygdal's (founder of the Danish conference Reboot and my partner in Social Square), who used to have a blog called "Commonme" (now But I am not quite sure. Maybe it was Evan Williams'—or maybe Dave Winer's?

Thomas Madsen-Mygdal introduced the blog to the Danish audience (or at least to me) at Reboot in 2001, where I believe 4 of the speakers talked about the phenomenon. And to tell you the truth I just didn't get it. How could someone's diary be of interest to anyone other than their closest relatives? (I have had to defend that impression of the conference to Thomas many times, but I am glad I am a flexible person who can change my mind when I get smarter. :-)

During the years after that, I got more and more curious to find out WHY blogging was even worth talking about—because people kept telling me that it was interesting.

When I engaged more in the development of online media and online journalism online (I am on the board of DONA—Danish Online News Association) it also helped me get even more interested in blogging. For instance the writer, journalist, and blogger Dan Gillmor was very inspiring to me—just like the people at Poynter Institute who are write the blog e-media-tidbits. The idea of participatory journalism made blogging even more interesting!

What about those blogs appealed to you?

“ People from all over the world, forming an open network right there in front of me, speaking to me—even listening to me if I had something intelligent to say. Wow! ”

The links to other blogs. The interconnection with people. Clever speakers or participants from Reboot. People from all over the world, all of them very smart and very interested in the development of the Internet, forming an open network right there in front of me, speaking to me—even listening to me if I had something intelligent to say. Wow!

Why did you start your weblog?

At first I found blogs confusing. Then I realized that I just had to read a little more on each blog to sort of "break the code" and get into the universe. I also got the feeling that if I started my own blog I could get closer to the other bloggers. And actually I tried to start a blog in December 2003—but I just couldn't get around to it—what to write, and how to begin. I guess I was a little shy about it as well.

When I finally started in 2004 it took off really well—probably because I was on a mailing list where I launched some of my blog-ideas and people were open-minded and nice about it.

And today I send links to posts on my blog to anyone I know, and who I think might have a remote interest in my subject—I am not that shy about it anymore.

How has your site changed over the years?

In the Christmas Holidays 2005 I left Typepad for Wordpress—and got a really nice new design made by a friend of mine. So the blog has changed from a boring Typepad-interface to a design that reflects me and what I like and who I am. It has become my own space now—much more than it was before. I feel at home in the design.

How much traffic do you get?

I really find it difficult to read the statistics, but normally I think 700 - 1000 people a day check in on me, with 1500 as the maximum numbere of visitors on one day. Per month I believe it is something like 10,000—and I have no idea if they are unique visitors or not. I always say that I prefer to have 15 engaged readers to 1500 who don't care about me or my blog, so I don't really do anything to check the numbers or find out more about the statistic.

What I am still impressed with is the quality of my traffic. I get so many intelligent comments—and I am always very happy when new people I don't know at all comment on my blog, and maybe leave a link to their blog. I have really met so many interesting people through my blog that I don't understand why anyone wouldn't want to have a blog.

What is your blog's rank on Technorati?

Ha, ha, it is 15,653—and that is because 216 blogs link to me with 437 links :-)

Do you make money on your site? How?

Yes I do make money from the site, but indirectly not from advertising or sponsors. Communication professionals from different companies find my blog and contact me in order to find out more about corporate blogging in their organizations and some of them ends up as our clients in Social Square. I have also been hired to speak at several conferences and seminars, and to teach at universities and tech schools and journalism courses because the decision-makers here read my blog—or maybe they just find my blog during their research.

The blog also has given me media coverage, because journalists also find my blog, and call me for interviews about weblogs or social software. That also helps me in my business—more people find me and my company.

Which tool do you use? Why?

“ I am NOT a patient person when it comes to technology. ”

I use Wordpress because I was on Typepad earlier and they were unreliable to say the least. It was driving me nuts that my weblog was not available for days—and suddenly some of my posts were missing. I know for sure that SixApart has fixed it because a collegue in my office uses Typepad for her blog and it is really working out fine. But it was too late for me. I am NOT a patient person when it comes to technology.

I haven't had any problems since I went to Wordpress. I like the interface and I am gratefull for "Akismet"—that is, the spam-protection in Wordpress —because I really, really, really can't stand spam comments on my weblog!

What would your ideal blogging tool do, that available ones don't offer?

I think it is frustrating that I can't find a good plugin for e-mail-notification. I love RSS—and I am addicted to my Bloglines account— but seriously, not all people are geeks. When I introduce them to Wordpress, Typepad or Blogger, and then afterwards have to tell them that they also need a tool for reading and following weblogs of interest, they give me that "deer in the headlight" look :-) So e-mail-notification as a default feature would be nice. Not instead of RSS, but as a supplement!

Do you have a background in writing?

Yes and no. I mean as head of marketing I did a lot of press releases, brochure copy, direct marketing copy, website copy and so on—but I have never been a journalist or thought of myself as a writer.

How do you choose items to link?

From interest. I just bookmark it "for later" if I don't have the time, and then I try to link stuff together when I can see an interesting connection that I can say something intelligent about. I rarely just post a link—I think it is because I am not that good at short explanations :-) For instance today I bookmarked a list of "10 things companies should monitor on the internet" from one blog—and a link to a tool for better monitoring from another blog.

How do you handle corrections?

I strike through the text if there is an error. And I write "UPDATE YYMMDD:" in top of posts if I need to add additional info or links or corrections later.

Where do you find interesting links?

Weblogs, (paper) magazines, newspapers, interviews where people reveal their favorites, people telling me or writing on the back of businesscards at conferences or sending me e-mails. Even on the back of busses—or on signposts in windows. The fun thing is that there are links everywhere, if you are looking for them.

Any surfing secrets?

My husband is a true Google Hacker—if it is on the Net, he can find it—it is really helpful sometimes. If I only remember a fragment of information he can help me out. I keep telling him he should teach people to do whatever it is he does!

Apart from that I would say blogs. If I find a new interesting blog I spend a good deal of time exploring the blogroll, because there are always some gems there—and I also find most of the new blogs that I subscribe to through other blogs.

How do you choose items to write longer articles about?

Again from interest. If it tickles me, then there is probably something worth writing about. Very often I write posts on "irritation"—if something on the Web is really annoying me, or if a website is just not usable enough in my opinion, or if some organization that I like is not using the potential of the Internet—I post about that. I always try to point out what they could do to fix it or make it better—but very often I start with some request for a change :-)

If I read something in the paper (mostly about the internet or "new media" ideas or something like that) that could also make me write an entry with my take on the story.

How long does it take you to write a longer entry? What is your methodology or approach? Do you have a formula you rely on?

I just start and finish in a flow—I think sometimes I am done in 20 minutes and sometimes it takes several hours to write something clever and nuanced about an issue.

And sometimes if it is something I consider important I write a quick draft and then blog it later, when I have more time—if ever. I have hundreds of drafts :-)

Do you ever write to deliberately provoke a reaction? Any tips on how to do that?

Often :-) I very often write about organizations and the way they use the Internet on my blog. I try not to be to negative—but I do have a tendency to get irritated if I feel they are not using the potential of their website, especially when it is a corporation or organization that I like and care about. Or if it is clear that they have spend a lot of money on a bad solution with poor usability, I try to give them some advice on how to fix it—or improve it—to make me happier. It is of course just my personal opinion and sometimes my readers don't agree, or think that I am asking to much—and it leads to good conversations. I often also have people from that organization commenting on my ideas or criticisms. It is good fun.

And in order to get the conversation going I try to remember to send the people I write about a link—I am very often curious to find out how they decided on the solution/platform/blog-format or whatever.

I also write to get help. If there is something I don't know or something I am a bit afraid of, I ask for qualified tips and tricks—and I get a good response on those kinds of entries as well.

I don't think you should overdo either of these approaches but when I genuinely want to have the conversation I find that both ways work well on my blog.

Are you fairly accurate in predicting which of your entries will be widely linked?

“ If I blog something that has open ends for me too, then people tend to participate. ”

Not at all—I am very often surprised by it. The only thing I know is that if I blog something that has open ends for me too, then people tend to participate. If I just blog that "this was in the paper isn't it cool", no one cares.

I sometimes wish I was better at predicting what it is that starts conversations, but on the other hand I don't think my blogging should be controlled by some craving for comments. So I continue to write about what I find interesting and hope people like it and care enough to have a conversation with me.

Do you do non-weblog writing?

Yes—I write a lot of memos, project reports and reports on market analysis. Sometimes I write articles as well.

How has your writing changed since you started blogging?

Shorter sentences.

At what point did you see the power of blogs for businesses?

I think it was a couple of years ago when I was much more into market analysis. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to ask questions on the Internet, what kind of conversation you could expect to have, and how the interaction between my clients and their respondents was actually taken place on the Web. When I was introduced to blogs on topics that interested me (communications, PR, marketing and journalism) I realized that blogs weren't just private diaries—they could also be focused on other things, such as products, knowledge, studies etc.

How do you think blogs can be used by businesses? Why is this important?

Humanization. Showing that there is more to an organization than the press releases and professional webpages with boring information—there are real people who care about the products, the service and the customers or stakeholders, and there are people who know stuff and are willing to share their knowledge

You know that commercial that says: "Intel inside"? It should be "Humans inside" and then a photo of their headquarters and a link to the blog :-)

“ Relationships are not build with brands but with people. We can forgive people—we can’t forgive brands. ”

This is important because relationships are not build with brands but with people. We can forgive people—we can't forgive brands. And I think most of us are tired of being manipulated by CRM-systems—we prefer to talk to people.

Generosity. Individuals inside the organization telling customers what they know. Not in order to get something back but to show that they are "large" in the good sense. (In Denmark "to be large" means that you share a lot, and are generous with your time, knowledge, fairness.)

This is important because the more knowledge you give away the more you get back. If knowledge is internal and hidden it is worthless. Mutual generousity is the glue in strong relationships.

Change. A company can use the feedback from a blog to actually change something. Or they can use the blog to talk openly about change, problems, dilemmas, difficulties or things that are just not good enough. This is important because in order to understand and embrace change we need information and to talk to someone we trust.

Are there circumstances in which you think businesses should not have a blog?

If they don't have courage to be open; if they don't believe in their own ability to answer questions and take part in the conversation; and if they don't have a willingness to change. Or if they are not interested in the conversation, but just interested in the hype or the "marketing effect that the agency told them would be awesome!"

What do you see as the future of journalism? Will the Web kill the newspaper?

No, I don't think so. TV didn't kill radio—but radio evolved—and I think the difficulty will be for newspapers to find good business models in a world of niche media.

Journalists are at the moment to full of themselves :-) Here in Denmark we see a lot of journalists interviewing journalists about journalism, and I think they should get back to research and navigating information and finding good stories. They should stop being arrogant about the fact that they can write—because to be honest most people can write nowadays. A lot of the writers that the journalists are competing with can write with their heart and their soul - something journalists are thought never to do, and which I think they will have to reconsider.

Are blogs a threat for traditional journalism, a promising development, or something else entirely?

Not a threat, but maybe a possibility?. If more journalists can hook themselves into the network of passionate bloggers they can start to write more interesting stories—because they will know more and learn more about the stuff that they cover. But some journalists are a bit behind on reading blogs, being on the Internet, using tools like RSS and syndication and search and surveillance tools on the Internet. They will get it eventually, and then I believe they will see more options—not threats.

How many hours online do you spend a day?

6? 10? It depends on whether I am teaching or speaking or consulting—but when I am not doing those things, I am online.

How much time each day do you spend on your site?

2 hours? 5 maybe, on a good day :-D

I don't really know—I turn on the computer when I wake up, and I turn it off when I go to bed. But I am also doing a lot of other things during the day, and hey, who's counting?

When do you blog?

Morning, midday, afternoon, evening, night, depending on my ability. But I don't blog every day—it depends if there is anything to blog about and whether I am busy or not. On average I blog 2-3 times a week.

How many weblogs do you follow?


How do you find new weblogs?

From other weblogs recommending them in entries or in blogrolls—or by friends sending me a link.

In your reading, do you actively seek out differing points of view? How?

By reading Nicholas Carr. No, just joking.

“ I am almost always interested in nuances, not in finding one big truth, since I don’t believe in simple answers anyway. ”

I read a lot of weblogs that I don't always agree with—some in Danish, some in English, some in Swedish and some in German. I try not to be to one-sided—I am almost always interested in nuances, not in finding ONE BIG truth, since I don't believe in simple answers anyway.

How much reader email do you get? Are you able to answer it all?

Oh yes—I get maybe 5-8 e-mails a week, so that is easy.

Whose writing do you particularly admire?

I admire lots of writers—I love good novel and a well written book on any professional topic. In fact I most admire writers who can keep me up all night—sometimes for their storytelling and sometimes for their topic.

Some of my favorites are: Malcolm Gladwell, Douglas Rushkoff, (nonfiction); JG Ballard, Paul Auster, Liza Marklund, Karen Blixen, Gustav Hvid, (novels); and Astrid Lindgren, (children novels—you have to read them if you haven't already).

Do you have any can't-miss sites?

Lots. Most of them are Danish bloggers that I read every day. Also, news from Sweden and Denmark about communications, organizations, the Internet—and everything in between.

My bloglines account is public.

Do you ever receive abusive email or comments? How do you handle it?

No I don't, and for that reason I have no idea how I would handle it. My husband is very protective so my best guess is that someone who was harrassing me would be debating the subject with him pretty early on :-)

What do you think makes a successful weblog?

Personality and a human voice.

What is your advice for a new blogger?

Be generous with what you know—link to others, comment on blogs, be yourself and don't be boring. Also I think most bloggers are very friendly so when you are a new kid on the blog, don't be afraid to ask other bloggers for advice.

What catches your attention in a weblog?

Mainly the facts: getting good links to interesting stories and news —and good analysis of what is going on. But also the person behind the blog. Knowing that the blogger is being personal and serious and sincere about the stuff that she/he writes about is most important to me.

What about books and other offline reading—do you have time for it now?

I still read books and the occasional newspaper. And I am a magazine addict with subscriptions to Wired, Time, The Economist, Fortune, and Business Week. Regarding time—heck, I even find the time to write books.

How does offline input contribute to your blogging? To your other writing?

If there is something interesting in a magazine I might blog my opinion or a Danish version of the story, or something like that. I also blog about news and stories from TV—if I have something to add.

Why do you blog?

To meet other people who share my interests in corporate blogging, and who are also testing what happens when you share knowledge in new ways. In my opinion you have a better chance to meet interesting people who can help you change the world on blogs than in most other places.

And I achieve two goals—I get smarter because my readers know more than I do—and I have more fun on the internet :-)

How has your weblog changed your life?

“ I often say that the more I blog the more naive I become. I truly believe that people can and will work together to change the world. ”

In many ways. I have met so many new, interesting and intelligent people, including my partner in Social Square, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal. And I often say that the more I blog the more naive I become. I truly believe that people can and will work together to change the world (or at least change organizations), and that we will come up with even better solutions when we work together.

On a personal level I am now working full time with corporate blogging—doing presentations and workshops, and working on projects in small and large organizations. An editor recently contacted me, asking me to write a book about weblogs. It was published this month. So basically my blog has given me a new career path.

With regard to blogging, what was your most memorable moment?

There are many—but probably my TV debut (a short interview for late news on a national television station) for which many of my readers helped me to prepare. I really didn't feel alone in the studio because their support was so fantastic.

What are three blogs you think deserve wider recognition, and why?

Kolind Kuren is a blog from one of the best known business leaders in Denmark. He is innovative and brave and always worth reading.

Bizzen. Dorte Toft is a freelance journalist on IT, and she really knows all there is to know about the sector in Denmark—AND she is brave. She is also a feminist, meaning that she stands up for lack of equality between men and women. I really like her blog.

Ms Rix Design Heaven. Line Rix is the cofounder and manager of a design company called 1508—and she has a great blog on design.

What are your hobbies?

I like Italian food (cooking and eating) and traveling in Italy—but I don't consider those to be hobbies.

What is the most telling thing about you?

That I fundamentally trust people and the things we can do as humans. And that I hope to help more people see their full potential, and to make the world a better place.

Mac or PC?

PC—I love my Dell Latitude.

Would you read your site?

Sure—especially if I was working in communications, HR or as a webmaster and was trying to get a hold of all this new stuff with blogs and wikis and social networking that's going on on the Internet.

Previously: Bruce Schneier

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bloggers on blogging

2005: matt haughey | jessamyn west | heather armstrong | rashmi sinha | glenn reynolds | adam greenfield
2006: david weinberger | megan reardon | fred first | jason kottke | tiffany b. brown | scott rosenberg
2007: bruce schneier | trine-maria kristensen

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