[as coisas soam sempre melhor traduzidas]
Many ordinary people are scared of blogging because they feel that they have nothing to say, says Ms Trott. So her message is that “mundane is interesting; it’s OK to talk about your sandwich”. Mena Trott é a fundadora da Six Apart, uma empresa de software que se dedica a desenvolver ferramentas para blogs. Nas últimas semanas, o Economist tem vindo a dar cada vez mais atenção às possibilidades do meio. Este artigo diz que «more people are quitting their day jobs to blog for a living». A história de Mena Trott – que me lembra outra que também não se envergonha «do mundano e do frívolo» – começa bem e merece ser lida.
IT ALL began five years ago with a blog entry about a banjo. Mena Trott had recently graduated as an English major from college and, at 23, was living as an under-employed designer with her husband Ben in San Francisco, passing her time by keeping a personal online diary. Called Dollarshort, it was a blog about her childhood, her pets and that sort of thing. One day, on a girly whim, she wrote that she wanted to buy a banjo but that her husband, ever the “tyrant”, wouldn’t let her. Mena’s friends and family, knowing that “Ben is the sweetest guy in the world”, recognised the humour, says Ms Trott. But all sorts of strangers suddenly blogged back with angry feminist advice, advising her to get a separate bank account, to tell off her bullying husband, and even to leave him. Ms Trott was livid. “Why can’t people take a joke, and who are these people anyway?” she wondered.
It was the seed of a profound insight: that the era of mass media was ending and a new era of “intimate media” had begun. Mr Trott had written some software to make it easier for his wife to update her blog, and they realised that other people might find it useful too. It was an instant success upon its release onto the internet in 2001, and the Trotts have since built their company, called Six Apart (because their birthdays are six days apart), into the largest independent provider of blogging tools and hosting services. Ms Trott is Six Apart’s president and public face, while Mr Trott, who is shy and retiring, runs the technical side of things and seasoned executives handle the management. Six Apart’s flagship products, Movable Type and TypePad, are popular among “power bloggers” with large audiences, and its third product, LiveJournal, is big among teenage girls who blog for their friends. Collectively, Six Apart’s products are used by over 30m bloggers around the world.
These days, however, the Trotts are most excited about their newest product, Vox, which was launched last month. For if a blogging service can have a personality, then Vox has Ms Trott’s. Like Ms Trott, Vox is unpretentious and accessible. By contrast with rival services, users need not worry about having to understand technical matters, such as the HTML formatting language in which web pages are encoded, in order to incorporate whizzy features into their blogs. They can upload pictures, video clips and songs with just a few clicks on a simple, colour-coded page. Also like Ms Trott, Vox celebrates the frivolous and mundane. Much of Ms Trott’s personal blog, VoxTrott, is devoted to images of her beloved dog Maddy, while Mr Trott, a dilettante cook, likes to post “disgusting pictures of good food” on his blog. Many ordinary people are scared of blogging because they feel that they have nothing to say, says Ms Trott. So her message is that “mundane is interesting; it’s OK to talk about your sandwich”. To a handful of people in the world it may mean a lot.
The other thing that keeps many people from blogging is fear for their privacy, she thinks. Hence the third and most important characteristic of Vox. It is intimate. For every item on Vox—a text paragraph, a photo, a link—bloggers can determine if it is to be public or private and, if it is private, exactly who can see it. Ms Trott, for instance, keeps one part of VoxTrott for communicating only with her mother, who has an insatiable appetite for information about certain minutiae of Ms Trott’s life. She also has a daily “Yay Me Update” just for herself, in which she uploads self-portraits from her mobile phone in order to preserve a chronicle of her life for her descendants—uninterrupted except for that time when she gained a bit more weight than she cared to commit to memory and conveniently forgot to post for a few days.
But despite its homely origins Six Apart is ultimately a business, so somewhere in this vision there must be money. The daunting challenge it faces is to “monetise” the product without ruining the feeling of intimacy for its users. Like most online media, Vox is funded by advertising, but “the advertising is so subtle that a lot of users don’t even know where it is,” says Andrew Anker, the product manager for Vox. A blogger might, for instance, write about her favourite novels and include a link to the books on Amazon, a big online retailer. Within a small social circle, such personal recommendations are a powerful form of marketing. If somebody clicks on these links, lands on Amazon’s website and completes a purchase, Amazon will share 7% of the proceeds with Six Apart. Similar arrangements exist with an online video service, and Mr Anker hopes to add deals with online music stores and other partners in future.
Putting the “me” into media
As a firm, Six Apart expects to break even only next year, and it is tiny when compared with giants such as Google, which has a rival blogging service called Blogger, or News Corp, a media conglomerate that offers blogging as one of many features on MySpace, its social-networking site. So the surprise is how well Six Apart holds its own against these industry titans. For some of the large internet companies, blogging seems “like a checkbox”, says Ms Trott—ie, something to have because it is fashionable, without caring much about it. She and her husband, however, sincerely regard blogging as a way of life.
Her commitment to the social, not just the commercial, potential of blogging has made Ms Trott an unofficial spokeswoman for the wider phenomenon of new media. Ms Trott is 29 but appears even younger; she is currently practising how to speak clearly with new braces in her mouth. And yet she increasingly has the attention of elder statesmen who are baffled by the rise of blogging and need help in “getting it”. At a big conference this year, Ms Trott regaled a large audience of digerati with her family photos and other tales. Spotting Al Gore, “the first person I ever voted for”, in the first row, she turned shy for just a moment. America’s former vice-president then sat spellbound through the remainder of her speech.