GreenBuild: On Blogging About Green Building
Leigh Stringer, Lloyd Alter, Willem Maas, Stephen Del Percio and Preston Koerner
I was asked to be part of a panel discussion about Green Blogs and the Built Environment and was surprised to see a full house. There were also moderator Leigh Stringer of The Green Workplace, Preston Koerner of Jetson Green, Stephen Del Percio of Green Buildings NYC and Willem Maas of Green Home Guide.
Prior to Greenbuild, Leigh ran a survey to see where audience came from and what they were looking for, and the results provided some fodder for discussion.
Our readers are young;
They are more interested in issues of green and sustainability than they are about design and architecture; (I may soon be out of a job)
Way more were interested in facts rather than opinion. (I am definitely out of a job.)
Not too many got much information from the mainstream media. But the issue here is that it is so fast-moving; things change quickly in the real world of green, and it is hard for the mainstream media, with their lead times and traditional sources, to keep up. The blogs depend on finding information from other blogs, which is why one of the takeaways from the session is:
-Everyone who is involved in green design and construction should have a blog, showing what they are doing, what the innovations are and how things are turning out. This is how to disseminate information quickly and make yourself known; the old practice of letting the garden grow in, calling the professional photographer and sending it off to the magazines no longer works, These small blogs get picked up by the boutique, specialized blogs, and eventually on the big ones.
-notwithstanding the poll results that said people want facts, not opinion, if you don't have a point of view there is no point in doing it. There are hundreds thousands of blogs out there that just pick up the latest from everyone else and republish it; most are just trying to make money off of google adsense or serve some other obscure purpose but don't add value. Unless people trust you and your judgment there is nothing to differentiate yourself from all of these posts.
I pointed out two examples of vaporware that spread like mad around the blogosphere: The EDITT building (first shown in 1998, site last updated in 2004, picked up a month ago on a good website and repeated on at least thirty other websites since, with some saying that construction is almost complete) and the Verdier eco-camper (won a competition in 2004, has a lovely website, but does not return phone calls or email). What is gained by having things repeated on every site on the web with no added value?
Leigh Stringer wrote on her website:
One of the more spicy topics covered was the "death of blogging." Most blog research sites indicate a flattening (or only slight increase) of blog activity over the last year or so. One of our panelists was a proponent of Twitter and other microblogs, stating that the future of blogs may in fact be creating shorter commentary that can be written anywhere as opposed to blogging, which requires you to be at your desk. Another panelist suggested that blogs may go in one of two directions — they will be bought up by large companies (like Treehugger) or they will become more boutique, specialized smaller blogs. Most agreed that blogs will not be going away anytime soon, they just may be read less due to the hoard of other media options.
Her takeaways for new bloggers:
1. Everyone who is anyone will have a blog at some point very soon. Even if Twitter and Facebook get hotter, blogging will continue to be an important way to express your ideas and brand. So just get started already!
2. Have an opinion and check multiple sources before you post an entry. You are a reporter now and you have a reputation to protect.
3. Be committed and prepared to research and write several hours a week. For that reason, blog about something you are passionate enough to write often and longer than a few months.
4. Reach out to other bloggers for tips and ideas. You may make a few friends along the way.
Preston Koerner, Jetson Green; read his take on the seminar here. His conclusion:
This may not have come through very clear, but I believe blogging can contribute positively toward creating change and improving the environment. Why blog about the environment unless you think you can make some sort of difference? Is that arrogant? Hard to say.
All the bloggers seem to provide information, news, case studies, and discourse in an effort to, at least in part, educate and activate the community. One audience member asked about preaching to the choir and whether blogs are reaching the so called unconverted. In response to that, Lloyd mentioned that about eighty (80%) percent of our readers come from some search query on Google. So they come to blogs for information and either find that information or they don't.
I think another way to describe this phenomenon is preaching to the curious. If I may ask, what's the point of trying to convert people that aren't willing to be converted? Through natural search and blogs being indexed and juiced up with Google, bloggers have the opportunity to speak with those that are seeking information -- they get to guide people towards an understanding of a topic.
The fact-based articles with correct and helpful information will end up making a difference -- they'll become loved by readers and frequented more and more. And slowly, ever slowly, person by person, our cultural attitude and understanding of a topic with veer towards a new path: Hopefully that path is true sustainability. I think some blogs are doing this and many are certainly trying.
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