Tell me about your Blog?
The first thing to know is that The Unlikely Entrepreneur is not a blog; it’s a blog/wiki hybrid (Martin Fowler calls this a bliki). I chose this platform because I have so much crosslinking and multiple authors that I wanted to be able to do much more than the blogging platforms such as WordPress and Blogger were capable of at the time. Now that I’ve really started exploring the wiki functionality of it I have to say I don’t think I could ever go back.
My blog came about because when I was talking with people about my career, I had so much information that I was drowning people in facts. So eventually I decided to blog so that I could rather elegantly refer them to my blog and let them learn as much as they were comfortable with,rather than make them want to run away from me.
The Unlikely Entrepreneur started out to be about having to learn to be a business owner in addition to being a musician, but quickly morphed over into its current format of posting and reviewing research on classical music published in peer-reviewed clinical journals, and letting people know why the research was important, and how they could use the information to their benefit. After having blogged for six months, The Unlikely Entrepreneur was named one of the top 100 music education blogs. I occasionally still do an op-ed post, but for the present I’m focusing on the research. I intend to start doing more op-ed posts soon (on the days when I just can’t read another journal abstract!).
What was your first blog?
I had a personal blog for a few months on a private social network, just to get used to the idea of blogging, and trying things out with a limited audience before going public. I eventually decided that I didn’t want to reveal that many personal details, and gave up blogging altogether, before some friends of mine convinced me to try again and to do a more informational blog.
What is the biggest tip you would give to a newbie blogger?
Decide on a posting schedule and stick to it. I post Wednesdays and Saturdays, with a few occasional posts in between, such as for Blog Action Day and a few other blogging events. Have some material ready for a post or two ahead in case life catches you by surprise.
What do advertisers do that you wish they wouldn’t?
Another great idea is giving stuff away–such as the software available on http://www.giveawayoftheday.com. By giving away the software, you are attracting, say, 1000 customers, who will, if they like your software, then tell all their friends. I know I’ve sent out countless emails targeted to friends who are really interested in what the product might do for them, and even suggested ways in which they can use it in their businesses. I liked one program and their company’s customer service so much I even became an affiliate for them–and a year ago I would never even have considered such an arrangement.
There are few things that irritate me; one is permanently wandering off topic. If I read your cooking blog, I don’t mind that you have an adorable picture of your cat covered with flour. I do mind if you lurch suddenly from cooking to auto repair to childrearing to personal stories to funny pictures and back to cooking. An occasional post only vaguely related to your subject is fine but I want to know that when I go to read about your blog topic, it’s basically going to be on topic. If it’s a personal blog, then of course, anything goes.
Another thing that I find irritating is when the whole blog exists only to get someone someone to click on their ads to make money, or only to advertise their product or service. I can’t send my business to everyone in the whole world, and if I’m going to take the time to read your blog post, I want something useful I can take to my vendor, if I already have one. For example, I’m not going to send my piano to another country and back to have it tuned, but if you have a piano tuning blog, I want information I can discuss with my own tuner.
What do you wish bloggers would do?
I find the crosslinking at my bliki extremely helpful and it certainly keeps visitors on the site much, much longer (the usual complaint I get is that people come on the site, and look up from the computer, and it’s 4:00 a.m.). I’d love to see more crosslinking between posts so that you can follow a train of thought. I love breadcrumbs as well.
I like the bio pages on blogs and everyone should have one, in addition to other static pages such as those on my site: environmental policy, guest post policy, comment policy, general site policy, etc. These are useful additions for serious bloggers. In view of the new FTC rule to take effect in December, there should also be a policy on each site concerning accepting free products for review, paid reviews, and more. In general, I want to know why you’re a credible source.
Where do you see growth in the blogging field?
I see the trend away from tech/seo/make money/how-to-blog blogs and more towards other kinds of blogging: social action, nonprofits, political action, citizen journalism, such as reporting on disasters or the live tweeting from Iran as events were unfolding (not opinion masquerading as journalism), etc. Nonprofits such as Doctors Without Borders, environmental groups, etc. have an almost unlimited opportunity for blogging. There’s a big opportunity for corporate blogging although most corporations don’t seem to understand the importance of it.
What new ideas are advertisers coming up with to take advantage of new trends?
Integrating advertisements as part of the blog posts, much like product placements in the movies. However, these should be clearly marked. The “fan pages” on facebook are a good idea, as well–if I’m really interested in your product, I will read the press releases, but the opt-in portion is important. One thing that irritates me about facebook fan pages is the continual messages to join. It would be much better to have the fan page on someone’s profile–that way you would get not followers who will quickly unsubscribe once they see what the fuss is all about, but rather a few dedicated followers who genuinely want to know about what you have to offer and keep up with what’s happening. I would much rather subscribe to some corporate website and have the original referrer continue to be paid for as long as I follow the website, rather than feel obligated to click on some ad to support a blogger (note: I am not advocating click fraud!).
What do you do to improve the world?
I saw an interview recently with Faith Mbazi, who said something to the effect that “being an entrepreneur means changing the world through business.” I educate people on the importance of classical music and music education for their brain development, health, well-being, and give them research they can discuss with their doctor. By aggregating all the research in one place, I try to add a little credibility to the field. It’s easy to dismiss one or two studies; I have posted over 120 and so now there’s a weight of evidence beginning to accumulate. And of course, I educate people on how to choose music teachers for themselves or their children. There are so many bad teachers out there, and only a few good ones; the bad ones are popular because they don’t demand much from their students, and so it’s easy and convenient to go to them. The good ones are worth every penny and every iota of work that you put into your music education and the results can last a lifetime, long after you quit studying or playing.
There’s an environmental policy on my site that outlines the steps I’ve taken to reduce my impact on the environment. Some of the things I do: I buy all my electricity from a company that uses 100% renewable energy. I recycle and repurpose a lot of things. I burn windfall and deadfall for heat in the winter, and I have the light bulbs replaced with CFLs (and off whenever possible). I have a programmable thermostat and I have only nontoxic cleaners, personal hygiene supplies, etc. in my house. There’s plenty more, which I have listed on my site.
What is one thing about you that not many people know?
Most of my life is an open book–I guess it would have to be that I am Russian Orthodox.
What’s your favourite book?
There are way too many favourites to list. It’s like that show, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? and all the books are raising their hands, jumping up and down, and shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!” In general, I read science fiction, mysteries, cookbooks, medieval history, and of course, music theory and analysis and music pedagogy. Anything that manages to combine two or more of these gets my attention: most recently I read The Book of Unholy Mischief, which is part detective story, part cookbook, and part medieval history.
What is on your iPod?
Currently, the audiobook of Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, Antonio Vivaldi’s Orlando Finto Pazzo, and some Renaissance dance music. I’m particularly fond of crumhorns.
What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums, etc)?
Note: if you’re going to connect to me on either of the following networks, please include a personal message telling me why. I don’t accept random connection requests.
What events do you go to?
I go to local networking events 6-10 times a month, gallery and museum events, and as many classical music events as I have the time and budget for.
How do you prefer to communicate?
Email is the best, facebook or Linkedin second best. Note to everyone I know: calling me on my cell phone is the WORST way to reach me. Unless I have a specific reason for it to be on, it’s off.
Who would you recommend, and why?
Deric Bownds’ Mindblog – http://mindblog.dericbownds.net/ A look at neurology research from a scientist who is also a musician.
Helen Webberley’s Art and Architecture, Mainly http://melbourneblogger.blogspot.com/ A wonderfully erudite and entertaining blogger (full disclosure: we guest-posted on each other’s blogs)
Maladjusted’s Drowning in Vitriol Philosophy rantings made fun! http://www.drowninginvitriol.blogspot.com/
Amanda Ameer’s Life’s a Pitch Marketing the arts http://www.artsjournal.com/lifesapitch/
The El Sistema blog (in Spanish) El Sistema is the brainchild of petroleum economist Jose Antonio Abreu, winner of the 2009 Polar and TED prizes. He’s transformed the entire culture and economy of Venezuela in the past thirty years. http://www.elsistema.org/
The TED blog Whatever you’re interested in, TED has fascinating talks by important researchers and thinkers, most of whom you’ve never heard of. http://blog.ted.com
Mindhacks Practical neuroscience http://www.mindhacks.com/
Neuroscience blog Neuroscience research http://www.neuroscienceblog.org/
Cognitive Daily even more neuroscience research http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily
And for the Orthodox faithful, my priest’s blog, Redeeming the Time: http://orthodox.net/redeemingthetime/ Father Seraphim does a wonderful job of chronicling his own spiritual journey as an Orthodox, and reaching out a helping hand to those of us who are not as far advanced as he is.
What is one thing people can do for you?
Read my bliki, contribute either through comments or guest posts, and share the information with your friends–through whatever means you choose. The more we can make people aware of the importance of music education, and of listening to classical music to improve your brain function and overall health, as well as to address specific health issues, the faster we can begin to see real results and the beginning of transformational change in the way we perceive music. We have to begin thinking of music the way we think of food–everything that goes into your body affects your health, and that includes sounds. We have to learn to choose our music with as much concern for our health as we choose our food.
Thank you for being a delightful interviewer, with really thought-provoking questions. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts with you.