9 reasons why H&M’s website sucks

this sucks H&M was a relative latecomer to ecommerce; the fashion retailer only started selling online in September 2010. They’ve now been online for just over four years, which is probably ample time in which to have improved their website.

Despite this, the online experience is still pretty poor, partly due to the fact that the in-store experience doesn’t match up at all to the ecommerce site.

In this post, I’m going to take a quick look at H&M’s website and suggest ways in which they could create a seamless customer experience.

1) No click-and-collect option

As more high-street shops are adopting a joined-up, omni-channel approach to retailing, customers have increasingly high expectations. When services click-and-collect is offered by your competitors, then naturally, your customers will increasingly expect this to be the norm.

According to the Financial Times, click-and-collect is growing at a faster rate than home delivery options. Strategy consultants, OC&C forecast that the volume of products collected in-store will increase by 53m compared to a rise of 38m for home delivery.

Despite this, a 2013 report by Serco highlighted that less than half of the UK’s Top 50 retailing brands offer click-and-collect. An enticing offer of free delivery (via the click-and-collect option) can often make the difference between your customer shopping with you or with your nearest competitor. As well as increased loyalty and satisfaction, click-and-collect gets your customer into the branch or store, providing upselling and cross-selling options.

H&M are definitely missing a trick by not offering click-and-collect, as adding an additional delivery cost can be frustrating for customers. New Look, John Lewis, Debenhams and Monsoon are just some of the high street retailers who currently offer this option, while Argos has seen serious benefits from early adoption of this channel. Some 30% of Argos’ sales are through click-and-collect.

2) Mismatched product codes 

Okay, so you see a shirt you like in one of H&M’s stores, but it’s not in your size. So you decide to buy it online instead, by writing down the product code. However, when you get home and type in the code, the shirt is nowhere to be found…

That’s because H&M’s in-store product codes don’t match up to the codes online, making it quite difficult for customers to find an item online that they’ve seen in the physical store.

So what other options do you have? The product codes in-store do match up with the catalogue, so items of clothing can be ordered this way. It’s also possible to type the product code from the catalogue into the website to find something. Or thirdly, customers can use the Scan and Buy option from the H&M app on their mobile. 

Although there are a few options available to the customer, H&M could streamline the process and make it so much simpler by using the same product codes across all their points of sale; from the store, to the catalogue, to the website. This would make it far more convenient for the customer to find an item of clothing, regardless of the channel they buy it from.

3) The website crashes during peak campaigns

H&M often run lucrative collaborations with key designers. The most recent collection was launched with Alexander Wang in November 2014. Eager shoppers sat at their computers, poised to find a designer bargain.

However, the whole experience was pretty frustrating for customers, as the sheer volume of traffic led to the website crashing. Those customers that were able to access the site soon found that many items of clothing were already sold out.

This is something that H&M could have anticipated, given that they have run similar campaigns with designers in the past. The lesson here is that if you’re going to run such hotly anticipated campaigns, make sure your website can handle the traffic. It can be pretty annoying for your customers who want to spend money with you but can’t even get to your site in the first place.

4) Difficult to locate a product found online in-store

As above, if you see a product online, but you want to try it on before you buy it, it’s very difficult to locate an item of clothing in the physical H&M store.

A recent report from Business Insider Intelligence revealed that 69% of Americans have “reverse showroomed”. This means that they have gone online to research products before heading to the physical store to complete their purchase. There’s clearly an opportunity for H&M here to actively capture those sales, by adapting to customer behaviour and joining up the online journey to the in-store experience.

5) Sales staff can’t order items of clothing for you

There is no link between the physical retail store and the online shopping experience. In other stores, including rival fashion retailer, New Look, if you see a jacket you like, but it’s not in your size, the in-store staff can order the right size for you and have it delivered to your house. This is a great win in terms of convenience and customer service.

At H&M, the only way to have an item delivered to your house is to go home, sit on your computer and order it yourself. You could scan the item with the H&M app, but it’s not something the sales staff can do for you.

6) Sale items appear to be there and then sold out when added to basket

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve managed to grab a bargain and then later finding it’s sold out when added to your basket. You seriously don’t want your customer’s experience to result in broken dreams, so don’t raise their expectations in the first place. If your site says you can buy something, make sure the customer is able to complete the transaction.

7) No free shipping option

The flat rate of shipping is £3.90, regardless of the size or weight of your package or regardless of how much the customer spends. This seems like a good option if you’ve got a big order, but most customers are now used to getting free shipping of some kind, even if they need to spend a minimum amount (e.g. £50) to qualify. Offering a click-and-collect option would also provide customers with the possibility of free shipping.

8) No next day delivery option

If you order from the website, you can expect to receive your order within 4-6 working days; not bad, but pretty lousy if you need to buy a present urgently, or need an outfit for that big party your friend told you about at the last minute (maybe she’s trying to tell you something…). If you were buying a last-minute gift, you’d be better off by purchasing from one of the many retailers who do offer an express service, such as Next, John Lewis or New Look.

Speaking of New Look, the high street fashion chain, which offers value fashion at a price comparable to H&M, even offers free next day delivery if you spend over £65.

9) Sold out clothes shown on home page

sold out clothes

There’s little point marketing clothes to your customers if they can’t actually buy them. The home page is valuable space for highlighting some of your best products, but if the customer can’t convert, then surely this is wasted space. Why not replace the images with products that customers can buy instead?

Do you have any examples of companies or brands who are providing a seamless customer experience and winning at omnichannel retailing? Please let me know in the comments!

Image credit: shaolin46 via Flickr

How Roses & Lipstick uses Instagram, blogging and Facebook for content marketing

r&lscarvesRoses & Lipstick is an online retailer, primarily selling headscarves to Muslim women on the internet. Okay, so how is that relevant to me, I hear you ask? Well, what they do really well is lifestyle marketing, creating a brand around quirky, modest fashion and giving out free tips and advice about how to look good and keep up with this season’s latest trends and funkiest colours.

This means regardless of whether you actually wear the hijab or not, you engage with them, you like their posts on Instagram and you read their blogs, because they provide interesting and useful content for fashionistas.

In fact, you really don’t need to wear a headscarf at all to find their content relevant, as there’s plenty of juicy tidbits about how to put together the boldest of fashion trends, at high street prices.

It’s something that big fashion brands as well as small businesses could learn from. Don’t forget that your audience doesn’t just consist of the people who wear your product. By creating engaging content, you become the go-to brand when say, someone wants to buy a gift for a friend. Or when a friend of a friend asks where they can buy a trendy scarf from. Effective content marketing amplifies word-of-mouth and increases brand awareness.

In this post, I’m going to look at what Roses & Lipstick does well, and hopefully provide some useful pointers for other small businesses who want to understand more about how to use Instagram and blogging to promote their brand.

1. You don’t need a big budget to do content marketing. You just need to be interesting.

When globally recognised brands think about content marketing, they might create a high-budget video or a specialised microsite or even a social game or app. This is fine, but it’s not necessarily something small businesses can afford to do.

Roses & Lipstick simply uses Instagram, blogs and Facebook to create engaging content. But before you write or post anything, ask yourself, why would anyone care about what I’ve written? Ultimately, your content needs to be relevant to your key audience. For example, the Roses & Lipstick website includes a lookbook, a simple but effective idea, which allows customers to see to to get the most out of their hijab purchases, so that they can pair the headscarf with stylish outfits.

Crucially, the team behind the company understands their audience; it’s the modern Muslim woman, the woman who wants to wear hijab, but also look good and keep up with the latest fashion trends.

2. Make sure you have something to say.

R & L - Blog - primary stripes beautiful messToo often, businesses will see others using Instagram, blogging or Facebook and think “this is something we really need to be doing!” without thinking about the why or the how. Think about your product: is it visually appealing? If your product looks good and photographs well, then by all means, use sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

Blogging can also be an effective tool, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you need to continually provide content for your readers, particularly if you’ve got something to sell. There’s nothing worse than writing a few posts and then finding you have nothing to say. And if you’re going to give tips about fashion, you need to be reading the latest magazines and blogs, as well as understanding the newest trends this season.

Roses & Lipstick has its own blog, aptly named Good Veil Hunting. As mentioned, you don’t need to wear a hijab to read this blog and find it interesting. For example, the blog provides tips about how to wear citrus brights, don a poncho effectively and go vintage shopping in East London.

3. Be aspirational.

R & L - Blog - white shirt- collage NEWThe fashion industry is constantly criticised for promoting images of unhealthy young women, and if you think about it, this really goes against all the principles of openness promoted by the internet and social media.

Roses & Lipstick is aspirational because it uses real images of real people wearing affordable clothing that you can buy on the high street. This shows that anyone can afford to look good; it’s just about putting together outfits in a unique way and being a bit creative.

This is something the big fashion brands could learn from. After all, who wants to see images of unhealthy models, setting unrealistic goals for young women? Be real, be authentic and make your product accessible to your audience.

Furthermore, Roses & Lipstick’s main blogger, Sarah is a mum, which is inspiring because it shows that having a baby doesn’t mean that your life is over or that you can no longer look fabulous and funky.

In an Instagram post, Sarah’s says she “refuses to look like I’ve jumped out of bed on the school run”. That’s quite inspiring to those of us who have just had a baby. 😉

This personal styling blog post about rediscovering fashion after motherhood is a perfect example of how brands can grow with their customers and their changing lifestyles.

4. Make the most of the talents in your team. 

zaynab cool picRoses & Lipstick is run by three sisters, who each have their own role within the business. Sarah, a journalist by trade, runs the blog. Because the blog is run by an experienced professional, the content is well-written, genuinely interesting and engaging. The photographs featured in Roses & Lipstick’s lookbook are taken by Farah Mirza, a professional photographer. And the model featured in the majority of the shots? Well, that’s middle sister, Zaynab Mirza, who’s effectively the face of the brand.

It’s important to consider that the marketing tools you use need to be adapted according to the talents in your team. If you’ve got someone who genuinely enjoys blogging and can write well, then make the most of it. On the other hand, you may decide blogging just isn’t your bag. That’s fine. Don’t use a particular tool just because everyone else is. Use what works well for your product and your team.

5. Use events to create content. 

We all have rough days and writer’s block. But if you’re going to run a blog, think of innovative ways to generate content. Covering events is an effective way of finding something to write about.

For example, the team behind Roses & Lipstick have set up personal styling sessions, gone to bespoke shoe-making workshops,  and covered events such as the Hermès Silk Ball.

Finally… 

As a final note, remember that while social media tools are undoubtedly effective, there is life beyond Facebook. For example, the humble email newsletter is still effective for sending out regular updates to customers and brand advocates. And don’t forget, it’s not just about the internet. There’s a whole breadth of marketing tools out there, on and offline.

Check out Roses & Lipstick’s Instagram, Facebook page, and blog for more information. 

Five tips for photographers to focus their lens on digital

photography-socialBoom boom. In this post, I’m going to look at how photographers (professional and amateur) can use the internet to market their services and increase brand awareness.

After all, you might argue there’s no such thing as overexposure on the internet…ahem.

Why photographers you might ask? Well, I have a few photographer friends who want to know more about how they can use the internet for marketing.

In addition, I’m really interested in how to create a personal brand, and I think it’s something that almost anyone can do effectively; it’s just about being true to yourself. And, as most photographers are “one-man bands”, marketing the brand that is you is of the utmost importance.

So where to start? Well, sites such as Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram are really useful for showcasing images, but social media is just one part of creating a memorable online persona.

Ultimately, you need to think beyond just social. So whether you’re the next David Bailey, an up and coming professional photographer or an amateur with a camera phone and an awesome eye for detail, this is the post for you.

Ready? Ok. Lights; camera; action… 

1. Understand how Google works

A common query is “how do I appear on the top of Google search?” There might not be a simple quick-fix to search engine optimisation (SEO), but understanding how Google works is a great place to start. Search is too big a topic to cover in great depth in this post, but here’s a brief introduction with some links to beginner’s guides.

When you type a search query into Google, you’ll see different types of results:

SEO-PPC

Click to enlarge

The results in red are paid search ads. This is where the advertiser has paid a fee to have their web search results displayed at the top of Google, based on contextual key words. The associated cost can be based on the amount of traffic driven to the website (PPC or pay-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-impression; i.e. the number of times the ad is displayed). 

The results in blue are natural or organic search results. These are unpaid for, and are based on the Google bots crawling your website for key words. Where your website appears depends on a number (in fact, hundreds!) of factors taken into account by Google’s magic algorithm, and forms the basis of SEO or search engine optimisation. These are known as ranking factors. Search engines aim to provide the user with relevant answers to their queries and rank them in order of importance. That’s a very topline overview, but you get the picture.

So, what does this mean? Although SEO is a long-term, continuous process, the very first port of call is to understand that Google can only crawl your site if it can read the words on your website. Google understands text. It does not understand images. So if all the text on your site is presented in image form, then Google can’t read it. You’re not even speaking to Google.

The other thing about having text as images is that you cannot create web links for words used on your site. If the words are presented as images, you provide no opportunity for the user to click on a word which opens up as a link to a different part of the website. And don’t forget, if your text is presented as an image, editing it is a whole lot harder than simply going back and retyping the words.

So although images are obviously important for photographers, making the most of the words on your page is crucial for Google to be able to index your site. And I’m not saying you need lots and lots of text on your site; after all it only follows that a photography site will probably be mostly made up of images. But, crucially, any words you do include must be text-based to make it easier for search engines to read, and must be optimised to yield better search results.

For more information about SEO, check out these (free) beginner’s guides:

2. Use creative content to tell a story 

They say a picture tells a thousand words. Ultimately, photography is the art of story-telling. Sharing the story behind your photography is not only a great way to engage your audience, but also helps to generate content for your website.

Social media, like photography, is about telling a story. All this really means is “be interesting”. For Humans of New Yorkexample, the Humans of New York is a great street photography blog that generated a large following through social media. As of November 2014, HONY has 10.7M likes on Facebook.

The photographer behind the project, Brandon Stanton, aims to photograph New York residents and plot their location on a map. But what is really fascinating about the project is the short stories that Stanton collected along the way.

This is definitely something photographers can be inspired by. Whether it’s on your website or on social media, sharing the story behind your photograph can be a really effective way to engage your audience.

And stories can also be shared in the form of blogs on your website. If writing isn’t your thing, it doesn’t need to be in great depth. Content marketing provides a whole host of benefits. Not only does it help to build valuable relationships with your existing advocates, it can help search engines to find you, thus generating new relationships with potential clients. Crucially, it makes you appear personal and human.

Another place where you can share your story is on your About page. Take a look at street photographer, Matt Stuart’s About page, for example. On this page, he shares information about his photography experience, what inspires him, details of the cameras he uses, and much more.

3. Share your knowledge and expertise

Another form of content marketing includes how-to-guides and hints and tips for hobbyists who want to improve their photography. Everyone wants to take better pictures. And this is where you come in.

Obviously, you don’t want to give away the farm, but providing some useful advice can help position you as a thought leader or expert, and therefore enhance your credibility. If you’re known to be an expert in your field, you’re far more likely to be approached by PR and press to give your opinion on a particular topic.

In addition, it gives readers a reason to come back to your website and read your content. If writing is your thing, you could create a blog around photography tips. If blogging isn’t your bag, then sharing tips on social media about how to capture a beautiful image is a great way to generate interesting content. It just gives your audience a far more compelling reason for hitting the “Like” button on your fan page.

Alternatively, you could answer questions on third-party websites, such as Quora, for example. This is a great resource for readers to get tips about almost any subject; equally experts can go online to answer these queries. There are hundreds of queries relating to hints and tips about improving photos, both from in front of and behind the camera.

Yahoo Answers is another example of a question and answer site. Internet users will often type their questions directly into Google, which means that questions on Yahoo Answers often rank well in search.

4. Find creative ways to interact with your fans, followers, listeners

Okay, so you’ve got your Facebook page. You have Instagram. And you have Twitter. Now what next? Of course the obvious thing is to post your photos and get as many “Likes” as you can. But think beyond just “Likes” and think about how to interact with your audience and create meaningful conversations.

Photographs are essentially capturing a memory and it’s simple to get your audience to talk about their special moments or places they have visited. If you’re posting an image of a place you’ve visited, something as simple as asking your audience about their memories of that place can initiate a dialogue. It takes you a step beyond merely likes and helps you to reach out to your fans through meaningful interactions. It’s also a great way to show your human side and create a personal brand.

Competitions are also another way to get your fans to interact with you. For example, take a look at photographer, Max Barsness aka heretosaveyouall on Instagram. He has some truly beautiful images, and some 103,000 followers. He also happens to be friends with one, Mr Aaron Paul. Back in August 2014, Aaron Paul ran the following competition:

glassofwhiskey_on_Instagram

Click to enlarge

The offer of a Breaking Bad script inevitably led to Max garnering a lot of followers and comments on Instagram. Now you could question the value of these followers, given that many people were only lured to the page on the promise of Breaking Bad memorabilia. And although many people quickly unfollowed Max after the competition ended, many stayed for the beautiful images (myself included and I’m really glad that I did!). The point is that the competition created great exposure, and Aaron Paul did this because he truly believes in the talent of Max’s photography.

Now, in an ideal world, we would all be friends with Aaron Paul (yeah, bitch), but of course, not everyone can do this. But what this example does highlight is the value of running competitions as a means to get your followers to interact with you and create some buzz around your photography. And it doesn’t have to be on the scale of Aaron Paul superstardom.

The benefits of running competitions on social media are numerous, but they include increased engagement, creating incentives for people to follow you, and enhanced brand awareness and exposure.

5. Go back to basics and nail your website. 

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that while social media is a great platform for showing off your portfolio to your fans, your website is the primary place for showcasing your best work to potential paying clients. It’s likely to be the first place that your future customers will look for you.

A lot of small businesses focus on social media as a starting point for marketing themselves online, but it’s crucial to make your website a priority. It’s a given that as a photographer, you will probably be using high-quality images on your site, but have you taken into account the overall user experience?

For example, how easy is it to access and use your site on mobile? If you’re building your website using a free provider, such as Wix or Weebly, these sites now include mobile optimisation tools to create a version of your site that will work on phones.

Also, think about how your customer will find your website. If your photography company works under a corporate brand name, are they more likely to search for that brand or for your name? If someone doesn’t yet know the brand, they are probably more likely to search for you instead, as an individual who is the face, talent and creativity behind the photography. It takes a while to build a recognisable brand, whereas a name is probably more instantly memorable.

The functionality of the website is also important. It sounds simple, but for example, does your website allow the user to cycle back and forth on images, pause on certain pictures and forward others?

The user experience of the website is a whole in-depth topic in itself, but it’s worth thinking about your site from the perspective of your customers, and definitely making it a priority alongside other forms of marketing.

I hope this post has been interesting and informative, and I would love to get your feedback. It would also be great to get digital marketing tips from those working in the realm of photography. 

Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/biC1Rr by Mark J P on Flickr

So I’m back after a long gap in blogging…

Chemistry is, well technically, chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change.
                                                                                                                                                                     — Walter White, Breaking Bad

caterpillar

Okay, okay so I haven’t posted anything on this blog for around six years. Well it’s no excuse, but life kind of got in the way. Since my last post all those years ago, I got married, worked for Econsultancy as a research analyst for five-plus awesome years, and perhaps most significantly, had a baby. Since then, I have decided to take a career break and take care of my son full-time at home for the time being.  Prior to this, I was mostly blogging and writing about internet marketing and digital trends for Econsultancy. This was a great experience, and I’ve covered many fantastically interesting topics, including email marketing, web analytics, digital innovation and change, social media, social gaming and how digital is evolving in emerging markets, including the Middle East.

Now I’m at home, the urge to write has been gradually creeping up on me again, and now, finally I have managed to find the time to actually sit down and write. Writing is my passion, whether that includes blog posts like this, or research reports, or simply expressing myself via social media.

For clarity, I’ve ripped apart my old About Me page and added an update. It seems that the things that were important to me back then were the bands I was into, the films I deemed important. But now as life has got slightly more serious, these things seem kind of trivial and I don’t feel that the About page really reflected who I am any more. Hmm… that’s what having children will do to you. It’s a cliché, but they change everything…

The overall look and feel of the blog has also changed as it was starting to look a little dated. Well, this blog isn’t called evolution for nothing. 😉

In the past, I’ve used this blog to pretty much write about anything, but now I feel it needs to be a little more focused. So I’ve decided I’m going to focus on digital marketing broadly, looking at brands who are doing great stuff online and hopefully provide some useful tips. I hope to keep to this area, but occasionally you might find me straying off-topic. I will attempt to post as regularly as I can, so please bear with me. 🙂

Image credit: https://flic.kr/p/e8uDwc by B Gilmour on Flickr

“Til Jihad Do Us Part” – Vote now!

The Big Pitch is a new, dynamic, UK-based film competition, where amateur film-makers pitch their film ideas, and are given the unique opportunity to have their film ideas made into a feature production.

Not only is this a fantastic opportunity for film-makers everywhere, but from my perspective as an avid film buff, it also means that slightly off-beat films can get produced that normally would receive little or no attention from Hollywood.

There are some great finalists, but my personal favourite is the very originally titled comedy “Til Jihad Do Us Part.” 🙂 The film idea is accompanied by a great blog by film-maker and writer, Shai Hussain. You can meet Shai here.

The romantic comedy film is inspired by “So I Married an Axe Murderer,” but puts an original and very topical spin on the theme. 🙂 The movie focuses on the story of Meena, and her growing suspicions that her new fiancé may be a terrorist…

“The best thing about The Big Pitch isn’t just the opportunity to get a feature film made – it’s the chance to go through the whole process in a really hands-on way, and not linger in development hell for years. Kudos to those who let a film with the title “Jihad” get this far.”

–Shai Hussain – Writer of Til Jihad Do Us Part

Taking into account the way that Muslims are currently portrayed in the media, “Til Jihad Do Us Part” provides a refreshing injection of humour, which is always welcome. 😉 Consequently, I’d encourage you (you, blog reader…) to vote to get this film made. At the end of the day, it’s all up to you, Joe Public; you get to decide which film-maker gets this opportunity of a lifetime.

Voting officially opens at noon, on the 19th of November (i.e. right now! Go vote! Go on…!). Competition winners will be announced on the 6th of December.

Vote for “Til Jihad Do Us Part” here. Voting closes on the 6th of December 2008.

Blogging Without Obligation

Hello!

I’m back after a long gap in blogging, and so this post is rather long overdue. Lukily for me, however, I firmly believe in the concept of B.W.O, or “Blogging Without Obligation.”

This mantra, a movement amongst bloggers, liberates me and other like-minded individuals from the shackles of guilt, and relieves the sense of impending doom that accompanies a long gap in bloggery.

Only fellow bloggers will know the incessant counting that comes with a month or so of *NOT* writing on your blog: “23 days since I haven’t blogged… 34 days since I haven’t blogged!” The anguish, the anxiety, the guilt!

But thanks to B.W.O, no longer do bloggers have to feel the unrelenting shame of having not updated their blog in a while.

Afterall, since I blog about issues I’m passionate about and given that I don’t make a penny from this blog, I think it’s only fair that I write for me, when I feel the need to.

However, rather than continuing with this desperate and apology-filled attempt at justifiying the overly long gap away from my online “home from home,” I’m going to sign the “Blogging Without Obligation” pledge, and I urge all my fellow bloggers to do the same.

Afterall, compulsion takes the fun out of everything. Not to mention the fact that blogging is fulfilling when you enjoy it, and you use it as a means to express yourself when you’re feeling inspired or impassioned.

So, if you agree, grab a logo, and sign the pledge. The sense of liberation alone make it worthwhile. 🙂

  • Because you shouldn’t have to look at your blog like it is a treadmill.
  • Because its okay to just say what you have to say. If that makes for a long post, fine. Short post, fine. Frequent post, fine. Infrequent post, fine.
  • Because its okay to not always be enthralled with the sound of your own typing.
  • Because sometimes less is more.
  • Because only blogging when you feel truly inspired keeps up the integrity of your blog.
  • Because they are probably not going to inscribe your stat, link and comment numbers on your tombstone.
  • Because for most of us blogging is just a hobby. A way to express yourself and connect with others. You should not have to apologize for lapses in posts. Just take a step back and enjoy life, not everything you do has to be “bloggable”.
  • Because if you blog without obligation you will naturally keep your blog around longer, because it won’t be a chore. Plus, just think you will be doing your part to eradicate post pollution. One post at a time.
  • Quoted from: http://www.tartx.com/blog/?page_id=233

Alltop has got Muslim news covered!

Yes, it’s true, Muslim.Alltop.com is the latest category to be added to Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop. Featuring approximately 150-160 Islamic news sites and general bloggery written by Muslims, the site aptly demonstrates that Muslims are a diverse bunch, with a wide spectrum of of views and opinions. In the same vein as the Gallup world polls, it’s the ideal place to go if you find out for yourself what Muslims really think.

Incidentally, Alltop also has a new feature where blogs can be removed according to personal preference, adding an extra layer of customisation. It now has approximately 70 topics, with new categories being added every day.

And yes, the evolution blog is indeed one of many featured. As well as featuring prominent news sites such as Al Jazeera, AIM Islam and IslamCrunch, Muslim.alltop is a great source for new blogs that you didn’t know about. Muslim Lolcats, for example. Or Confessions of a Funky Ghetto Hijaabi, where popular films such as “Harold and Kumar Get the Munchies” get a “Muslim make-over.” (See, some of us even have a sense of humour! 😉 ) Another great resource for Muslim sites is the Islamic Blog Directory (also featured on Muslim.Alltop!)

So, unlike news sources such as the Daily Mail, Muslim.Alltop cuts through the spin and provides a far more reliable window into current Muslim thinking.

A Reminder of the Ugly Side of Blogging

Opinions are like butts. Everyone has one.

Yesterday, I Truemored the case of Paul Tilley, an advertising executive from Chicago who recently committed suicide. Rumours are rife that the suicide attempt may have been linked to malicious, anonymous posts from the blogosphere that referenced Tilley’s management style.

We will never truly know what drove Tilley to take his own life, and in this difficult time, it’s easy to shift blame and find a scapegoat. However, I assert that regardless of the reasons behind Tilley’s suicide, there is an important lesson here about responsible blogging. As blogging rapidly proliferates, there will inevitably be similar cases in the future.

New media represents the zenith of democracy, as the Internet epitomises the liberty of free press, empowering the masses and allowing anyone to voice their opinion. Citizen journalism is revolutionising traditional media, and Truemors is the quintessential example of this rapidly evolving phenomenon.

Whilst the democratisation of information is undeniably an encouraging trend that we should all embrace (Would I be writing this if I didn’t believe that?!), nevertheless, I think it’s important not to dismiss the ugly side of blogging in an off-hand manner.

One of the key differences between traditional and new media is accountability. Whereas bloggers are free to write whatever they please, newspapers and television stations are at least accountable for the views that they portray. In addition, there are basic quality standards, which mean that writers cannot simply write whatever they want with blatant disregard for other people.

Even still, the consequences of living under the watchful eye of the paparazzi can be devastating, as the recent death of the young actor, Heath Ledger clearly demonstrates. The celebrity gossip columns time and time demonstrate the cruel irony of fame: it can elevate you to the height of success, but it can also destroy you.

Consider then, the power of blogging, which can push ordinary people into the spotlight, even when they don’t seek notoriety.

This is why I think that bloggers need to be responsible. I don’t advocate censorship
or regulation of the blogosphere, as this would completely defeat its objective. However, I do think that blogging is a powerful medium, and as my favourite super hero likes to reiterate: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The typically libertarian view would probably hold that people should be able to write whatever they want and other people should just be able to handle it. This is fine if we were living in a bubble, perhaps in a world without cause and effect. The undeniable truth is, our choices in life, and subsequently, our behaviours and actions have a profound effect on the people around us.

The justification of what basically amounts to cyber-bullying, also blatantly disregards the notion that the most powerful in society have a responsibility towards the most vulnerable. Sure, we all handle things differently, but surely, we cannot dismiss people who may be adversely affected by what we write. I agree that that in this new media age, all of us perhaps need to be a bit thicker-skinned, but bloggers themselves also need to be responsible and think about the consequences of what they write.

These bloggers were also anonymous. To some extent, all of us hide behind our online identities, our Facebook profiles, and our instant message platforms. However, I think that where possible*, bloggers need to adopt an open and honest approach.

I include myself in this view, by the way. I was personally reminded of the need for responsible blogging, when I dismissed Irshad Manji’s book as perhaps “mediocre,” without having actually read it …

So I think that responsible blogging is something that all of us who partake in the blogosphere need to work towards, perhaps by creating some sort of responsible blogging manifesto. 🙂 If there are any bloggers who are reading this and feel the same way, perhaps we should form a consortium of like-minded people.

In English literature class, I was fortunate enough to study J.B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, and as I write this, I am reminded of a quote from its central character:

We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish.

My thoughts are with Paul Tilley’s family and friends at this difficult time.

Photo credit: Monky.cl on Flickr

Monday is Valley Zen Day!

I love Mondays and Valley Zen’s interviews with VC, Tim Draper, are definitely one of the reasons why. If you haven’t checked out Drue Kataoka and Bill Fenwick’s new blog yet, you definitely should.

Drue is a Master Sumi-e artist and her insights into life in Silicon Valley are unique, as she uses her Zen perspective to examine the intersection between art and technology. The interviews with Tim Draper are irreverent and humourous, but also provide some important lessons, not only for entrepreneurship but also for life.

This week’s episode is here, where Tim talks about the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, and we see Drue checking out art in the men’s bathroom. 🙂

The first and second episodes are here, in case you missed them the first time around. I’m really looking forward to next week’s episode, where we see Tim doing a Samurai flip! 😉

You should also check out Drue’s interview with Guy Kawasaki right before the launch of Alltop.

Also, whilst I’m on the subject of Samurai and Alltop, you should check out Guy’s story over on Podtech about the analogy of the old Samurai (Guy) and the young Samurai (Jeremiah Owyang). 😉