A Successful Experiment

These posts formed the daily blog style column that was on the Thwink pages in October 2007. This column has since been removed, because it was simply not worth the time to write the articles. They have, however, been preserved.

Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US

A Successful Experiment

Postby Jack Harich » Sun Oct 21, 2007 9:00 pm

The Daily Analysis column was an experiment. The goal was to test whether blog style mini-articles would lead to more exploration of the website and more contacts.

After one week of articles, there has been no effect at all on visitor patterns. About 10% of visitors do click on one or more Daily Analysis links. But their website behavior does not seem to be affected.

My opinion is that the reason people become interested in the Thwink paradigm is its many in-depth articles, the way these are integrated into a comprehensive whole, and the usefulness of the research presented. This is not enhanced at all by the Daily Analysis articles, because they are short, lightweight, and shallow. They have to be, or I could not write one a day.

So in an effort to use my time most productively, the Daily Analysis has come to an end. It was a successful experiment, because it allowed us to arrive at a sound, proven conclusion: blogging and serious analytical articles do not mix.

The blog articles took two hours a day. That time and energy is now going into my latest project: a book proposal to Island Press. This is for a reorganization and expansion of the Dueling Loops book. The new title is Process Is Everything: A New Approach to Solving the Sustainability Problem.

And of course after the proposal goes out in the mail on Monday, I have to write the book.



Robert Gowans
Posts: 42
Joined: Mon Aug 27, 2007 10:33 am
Location: Sweden

Postby Robert Gowans » Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:00 pm

Hello Jack,

Not sure if you've seen this, but your experience reflects advice from Mr Usability himself Jakob Nielsen in this article - Write Articles, Not Weblog Postings.

I signed up to Jakob's bi-weekly newsletter a few years back based on his reputation and the quality of articles I saw at that time on his website. I've been getting these bi-weekly newsletters ever since and learn something new from all of them.

A well designed and promoted newsletter might be a successful way of building relationships with the people that visit thwink.org.

As Jakob says:

The positive emotional aspect of newsletters is that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a website can.

Step 1 might be to purchase Jakob's email newsletter usability report so that it gets done right from the start.

In terms of frequency and content, we could start by emulating the usability master himself: bi-weekly newsletter, one solid new article per newsletter, with additional links to events (ie. new books, videos, news, forum posts) and some calls to action.


Jack Harich
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 5:43 pm
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, US

Postby Jack Harich » Thu Oct 25, 2007 4:36 pm

A fond hello to you, Rob,

Welcome back. I was really concerned about how things are going with your son’s health, and your wife. I hope things are now sorting themselves out.

“Write Articles, Not Weblog Postings.” – Now there’s some good advice. I’ve been to his site and looked at one of his books, but have certainly not seen this article.

I just read the beginning of the article and skimmed the rest. Really good advice. The phrase “Elite, expertise-driven sites” seems to be what Thwink.org is. Jackob Nielsen is an ace. He says regularly publish in depth articles that demonstrate your expertise, and you will get paying clients.

Thwink’s mission is a little different from that. I’m not looking for paying clients. I’m trying to help solve a global problem, by publishing my ideas and hoping they will be taken up by people in positions of influence.

The quickie newsletter I did on the forum is pretty bad. We have about 15 people signed up to get the newsletter. But when I look at professional newsletters, I ask myself, how long will that take to write?

A long time, days. That time could, and I suspect should, go to other projects with a much higher potential payoff. So lately I’m back to trying to get a book published. Publishing real books and articles in peer reviewed journals is THE pattern for work like I’ve done. So why try to invent a new way to get these ideas out there?

The site has succeeded in getting a small trickle of contacts. Philip is getting very close to real implementation of the Thwink paradigm. We should hear in a few weeks how this will start.

On Tuesday I mailed off a book proposal to Island Press. I’m now writing the book, at light speed, because I need to free myself up if and when Philip needs me to get involved with his efforts.

Back to your suggestion of a newsletter. I think one a month would be the most that I could realistically consider. My work is research and serious writing oriented. It is not deadline, consumer oriented. It’s probably possible to cobble something out of current work every month.

But is a newsletter the best place for you and me to invest our limited amounts of time? On the phone you suggested writing a letter along with a film and or book, and mailing it to a Guardian article author. I think that if we did a bunch of this, it would have a much bigger impact that the newsletter or improving the site.

The reason is people of influence don’t surf the web much. For example, Philip has only been to the Dueling Loops page on the site, and on a few other pages I mailed him emails about. Joe Starinchek of US Fish and Wildlife never surfs the site. He found it due to the sustainability entry in Wikipedia, called me up, and that was that. So if we want to gain the attention of people of influence, we need to put something in their hand.

So I wonder if we could try something. Let’s try to engage Europeans on this new paradigm. The Americans are pretty much behind the times and are squeamish about trying new radical ideas. So how about if you find articles by influential Europeans we should contact. There would be something in the article(s) that we could use as a take off point in a letter. You could write some letters and I could write some. I can prepare the materials. We can figure out how to best mail them.

We could try this as an experiment. If it doesn’t work, we use what we’ve learned to try something else.

Another option is there are about 140 pages on the Thwink site, plus numerous pdf files. What about you writing a newsletter once a month?

That sentence on “The positive emotional aspect of newsletters is that they can create much more of a bond between user and company than a website can.” is really good. Thanks.

About including “some calls to action.” – This is exactly the road I don’t want to take. That’s step 4 of Classic Activism. Better is to push on the right HLPs.

Well, back to writing Process Is Everything. If you have any suggestions on the table of contents design, and how the book is starting out, let me know. The arrow is barely out of the bow, so the book design is easy to change at this point.


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