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I have been reading many different blogs and several have stuck out as great ones. One of those is ext337.org run by Marnie Webb. So I decided to give her a call and pick her brain on several topics from microformats to customer service to corporate blogging. I decided not to transcribe in text this entire interview because I think it is well worth the listen. Marnie has some excellent viewpoints on the topics discussed and some good ideas for new web app creators.
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Below is a partial text transcript of the audio interview. Please listen to the audio for the entire discussion.
Allen: Can you provide a brief bio about yourself?
Marnie: Sure, my name is Marnie Webb and I am the VP of knowledge services for a non-profit organization called TechSoup – we provide technology assistance to other non-profits around the world. My role is figuring out how to get resources to where and when they need it. Increasingly that means using the Web 2.0 tools.
Allen: How did you come up with the name of your personal blog ext337?
Marnie: That’s my extension at work.
Allen: Whats your view on corporate blogging?
Marnie: My perspective on it is a little slanted by the industry in which I work. In general I think it is incredibly important to give individual consumers access to the voices that make their products. I also think of Microsoft’s Channel9 where they let their employees be their employees. Be the whole people who they are. It gives a different view into the product you are getting. I think it is also terrific for employee retention. When you let people be their whole selves at the office they are more likely to stay. Most important part of it is to open a dialogue where you can engage in a different type of way than traditional corporate way.
Allen: We both attended the Future of Web Apps summit last month – what were your takeaways from the summit?
Marnie: The big one for me was about disclosing the data to users so they can do other things with it. Whether that means APIs. The stuff Digg was showing about how to visualize the data, and Dogster and how you can have a tremendous about of data and do a variety of things with it. So that was one is about disclosing as much as possible to folks.
Show me what people like me like and people that I like like and upcoming.org is like that. The first way I navigate is what people I trust go to. I follow what they do and that is just as important a navigation model as anything else that upcoming.org has added. I think part of it is trust and part of it is that I know you live here too and have some similar constraints that I do. Because you will give me the best mechanics in my town.
Allen: You posted about Customer Support 2.0. What are your thoughts in this area?
Marnie: If you have this new model of products that people can access for free or very low cost, people still need to know how to use it. You can’t say that people will need to figure out how to use it themselves. And so I think there is a place to provide more than just support forums but to really setup an eco-system of support. Take Drupal for example, how do you identify the people who can help you set it up or find graphics support. And how do you provide a reliable way to navigate that and the trust/reliability isn’t necessarily there for customer support model. And so I think that is a really interesting problem. Salesforce has done some great things with their app exchange but not just there, but actually usable by a wider variety of people. It adds a bit more structure than just using a forum. That eco-system of support is an interesting problem. Putting in a trust mechanism is important and helpful. And to organize it in a knowledge-base fashion including trust and reputation ratings.
I think there are also opportunities to volunteer. If you believe in this tool could you spend 30 minutes a day to answer users questions.
Allen: What web apps do you like from the current crop?
Marnie: Really interested in magnolia which is a social bookmarking site. What is interesting to me is to take this nascient group that forms around a tag and to make things easier to bookmark and to add themselves to a group based on a tag. And then I think YouTube is absolutely fascinating. Not just because they were bought. It may be the end of TV as we know it. I think it would be great to be able to take my Tivo and subscribe to my friend’s shows.
Allen: You have posted a bunch about microformats can you speak to why you like them?
Marnie: I think they can solve a variety of issues like having better way to find people, athletes and actors. Being able to structure the information with microformats will help to solve some of the issues we talked about earlier.
Allen: What’s next for the Web over the next year or two?
Marnie: If the first version of the web was about making it easier to read other things from other people. I think it will become easier and easier to create applications and things like microformats and tagging will help because they are easier to access. Stuff like increasingly structuring the content will help as well. You have people like me (savvy user but not a coder) who will be able to create their own applications on the web. As those things become more sophisticated, what happens if I can drag and drop a feature from digg onto a feature from flickr, magnolia and youtube because the web is my database. It feels like that’s where the next thing is – people building their own applications – and there are companies popping up in this area.
Well we have reached the end of our interview with Marnie. Thanks to Marnie for participating and to you for reading and listening.
If you would like to participate in a conversation on CenterNetworks, or if you have any comments or questions, you can contact me via e-mail at allen===at===centernetworks.com or visit CenterNetworks for all of our news, reviews, insights and conversations.