Becoming a great blogger...

OK, that's a better headline.  One that at least hints at the significance of my interview with Steve.  I've no idea what I was thinking with 'Steve Clayton and online success'.

Actually, I do know.  I was kind-of excited to be publishing the interview.

I could have used:

  • Start a tribe the Clayton way...
  • Leading blogger spills the beans
  • Become a great blogger and lead a tribe
  • 2 blogs a day and you'll be away

Almost anything would have been better.  I'll try not to commit headline annihilation again :-)


Steve Clayton and online success


Steve works at Microsoft.  A company where a lot of people blog.  If you want to find out what’s happening there, a great way is to find bloggers from the team that’s working on the product or area of interest… that’s even true if you work there, like I do, too.

Not all blogs are equal.  Some are read by many thousands of people.  A few are used as regular sources of the latest information.  A few stand-out.  And one in particular was voted Computer Weekly’s ‘The best of the best’ of UK company blogs.  It’s Steve Clayton’s Geek in Disguise.

Steve started blogging in 2005 and having reviewed the number of posts, starting May 2006 he’s written an average of 76 pieces every month (or 2.5 per-day, 7 days a week)!

So, how does he do it, why does he do it and just why is he in disguise?  I thought I’d ask, and this is what I found out…

What made you start blogging?

4 things I think

  1. Frustrated journalist – I always wanted to be a journalist and now a finally have an outlet :-)
  2. Extend reach – when I was in our partner organisation, we have 7 people trying to reach 35k. This seemed the best way
  3. Change perceptions – I get frustrated at the misperceptions around Microsoft and foolishly thought I could change some via my blog
  4. Personal bookshelf – my blog is my outboard brain

What did you do that took you from zero to the best of the best awards?

Persistence, patience and sticking with my theme – which is not really to have a theme. For a while I thought I ought to remove some of the off the wall, random stuff I put on my blog but the feedback I got was that’s what people like – the mix of topics and the quirkiness. I also got lucky with making some great connections to people like Hugh MacLeod, David Brain, Scoble and others who bring credibility and traffic to your blog. I also made my blog part of my brand – it went on my business card, in every presentation I gave and became what i talked about a lot.

In May 2006 you seemed to change strategy – from an average of 12 posts per month to an average of 76 posts per month (with 120 in January 2007).  That’s 2.5 posts a day.  What made you change strategy?

I think it was probably around May 2006 that I read Naked Conversations and realised #3 up there – what i really wanted to do with my blog was change perceptions. Scoble proved it could be done and I wanted some of that action. I decided my blog would be my vehicle to share my passion for Microsoft. Things really took off with the Blue Monster in October 2006.

How much time do you spend writing each day/week?

That’s probably the question i get asked most about my blog and the answer is a really don’t know...sometimes 20 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. It depends on the topic, the amount of research for each post and whether I have time in between my day job. I spend more time reading blogs (and twitter) than writing them. Which may be equally worrying :-)

What is your process/approach to writing?

I create lots of drafts. If I see things on a blog that I want to write about, I hit the “blog this button” in Internet Explorer which you get when you install Windows Live Writer. That created me a draft post with a link to the original story I want to reference. Often I just save that off and will come back to it a few hours or even days later if the topic isn’t time sensitive. That means i often have a good backlog of stories I can post when news is lean or I don’t really have anything I want to write about. I take quite a bit of pride in writing a post as I always want to ensure I link correctly, that I have an eye catching image and if I can dream one up a catchy title. I think graphics are really important on a blog as many people read blogs in a feed reader so you only really have the title and image to catch their eye with in a sea of news. I also make a real point of referencing where I found the story if I’m referring to someone else as link love is part of what makes the blogosphere and the web go around. A real bug bear of mine is people who don’t reference’s lazy and discourteous. I was caught out once doing this and will never do it again.

Do you consciously seek out areas of interest for your blog?

Not really...I just go with the flow of stuff I find, both online and in life. If it’s interesting to me I post about it. It may be of interest to others (I hope) but often it just gets it out of my brain and somewhere I can easily find later. I do have some consistent themes of course around Microsoft, technology, cloud computing, design, great quotes, clever adverts and so on. That keeps me busy enough.

What is the next big thing in social networking online?

Twitter. It’s already here and though I originally said it was nonsense I now genuinely think it’s going to be huge. Today’s use is just the tip of the iceberg as in a world where we value speed and trust our friends more often than any company, website or organisation, Twitter has it nailed.

[Mark: you’ll find Steve on Twitter at @stevecla]

What are your top 3 tips for bloggers?  (you’ve written ‘I write my own blog’ which includes your top 10, what are the top 3)

Ahhh, top 10 are above. Choose 3 you like  :-) additional tip. If you can, use Windows Live Writer. It’s a beautiful, elegant blog editor that makes writing blogs a pleasure. Definitely one of the best pieces of software Microsoft has written for a long time.

[Mark: yep, that’s what I’m using right now…]

How did you come up with the name :-)?

A friend coined it a few years back. I was telling her I was a bit of a geek but tried not to show it too much and she said “ahh, you’re a Geek in Digsuise”. I needed a name at the time and it was a good one I thought.

Thanks Steve!