Interview With Steven Hodson Of WinExtra.com

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This week, I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Steven Hodson, author of the WinExtra.com blog. WinExtra is one of those blogs that I continuously find myself reading within my feedreader. Although Steve is a cranky old man, he makes a ton of valid points that I think a lot of bloggers would steer away from posting. I want to thank Steve for taking the opportunity to answer these questions and I hope you guys enjoy the interview.

Jeff: Steve. Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you chose the name, WinExtra for your blog.

Steve: Myself – well I’ve been involved with computers and technology for jeez it has to be going on to pretty well close to 15 or 20 years now. when I first started serious computer type work Windows was nothing more than a stub used by programs like PageMaker and Corel both of which I used to create a small downtown magazine. From that point I got involved with programming with Clarion for DOS as my first language and then progressed (or some would say digressed :) ) to Visual Basic.

During this time I also got involved in running a BBS (Bulletin Board Service) as part of FidoNET. My first and longest used BBS software package was called Maximus and that was all configured with Notepad .. there were no such things as graphical interfaces then unless you counted ASCII color codes :)

As for WinExtra. It first started out as a set of NNTP newsgroups that was originally intended as a backup in case the newsgroup I hung out in at the time got pulled by it’s temperamental host. Which in the end it did and I saw WinExtra slowly grow into a very tight knit community which is what you see even today in our forums. The blog part of it came afterwards as I really wanted to have a platform where I could express my own opinions without alienating so to speak the newsgroups which by this time had for various reasons been moved to web forums software.

The name WinExtra came out of the fact that pretty well everyone in our fledgling community were Windows users and I wanted to be able to add something extra in the way of a helpful community.

Jeff: What is your definition of a blog?

Steve: Wow .. hmm … the term blog has changed so much over its relatively short life span. In the beginning it was just a way for folks to have a place to bitch about their lives and the things going on in it. Then is was discovered to be a great way to quickly share news and ideas but for me blogging is a way to be a part of a larger conversation; whether it be the post itself which maybe was prompted by another post or from the comments that go along with a post. I am a strong believer that the comments can be just as important as the post they are a part of and that a blog that doesn’t allow comments isn’t a blog. In those cases it is no different than some soapbox in the town square with people walking by either ignoring what is being said or just shaking their heads as they walk by.

Blogs are an incredible way for us to learn but learning is a two way street which is why comments are important as they add to the learning experience. by shutting them off all you are doing is preaching.

Jeff: Why did you decide to use WordPress versus the other Blogging platforms that are available?

Steve: I looked at several others and for awhile when I was running my own server I was using dasBlog; which is an excellent ASP.NET based blogging package. But when I was forced to shut down my server due to finacial reasons I had to find something that could run on a Linux system as that was the cheapest hosting I could afford at the time. So I looked at MoveableType, WordPress and a couple of others. WordPress won out for two main reasons – ease of setup and the incredible themeing and plugin support system out there for it.

Jeff: Do you make a sizable income or any income at all from blogging? If so, is this income generated by ads?

Steve: The truth of the matter is I only just recieved my first AdSense check two months ago and that was after 11 months of blogging. I have tried many of the other types of ad networks out there but unless you are getting 1,000’s of page views a day you can forget making a living at it in the beginning.

I don’t agree with doing pay for post type stuff so I don’t see any income for that type of work. I’m not saying that it isn’t a viable way to make money – it just isn’t something I am comfortable with.

The one thing that I will say regarding making an income from blogging is this – if you are expecting to make a good living from blogging within the first year you can forget it. The only people who can do this are people who already have a name recognition factor walking into the blogging world. The rest of us – well it is going to take working at it day in and day out .. it will take time and a lot of work in order to build up enough of a reputation so that advertising can bring you in a viable income and the sooner you can lessen any reliance on AdSense by selling ad spots yourself the better off you will be.

Jeff: Do you believe as a blogger, that other bloggers can make money via their blog while still maintaining an avaenue of trust with their readers?

Steve: It depends entirely on how they are making that money .. but in general I believe so. However the true judges of trust factor will be the readers themselves and to a lesser degree the other bloggers within your area of blogging.

Jeff: What do you think is the best part of blogging?

Steve: The learning and sharing. It’s a simple as that.

Jeff: Who do you think is crankier? Yourself or tech pundit, John C. Dvorak?

Steve: John who??? :)

Jeff: For those that don’t know, could you tell us what this term “A-List” represents in the blogosphere?

Steve: The A-List first originated as a term for the top 100 bloggers as listed by Technorati. while Technorati has slowly been falling out of favor the term A-List still hangs in there as a way to identify the so-called blogging elite and the mover/shakers of the tech blogosphere.

Jeff: I see you use FeedDemon, as do I. Why do you use FeedDemon as your preferred RSS reader over something like Google Reader?

Steve: I actually have two favorite readers. FeedDemon is my main one but it is followed closely by one called FeedGhost. As for my preference of using a stand-alone reader over something like Google Reader it boils down to a couple of things. Besides the fact that I just don’t like Google Reader; and I have tried it a couple of times, I also am not comfortable with any third party knowing what my reading habits are or being able to use my reading habit as part of any database used to feed their advertsing money machine.

Jeff: How do you feel about RSS and what sort of impact has this technology had on the blogosphere in general?

Steve: RSS; or even XML, has had an incredible impact on our ability to share information in a true cross platform manner and I don’t think this is just regulated to blogging. I think we have only begun to scratch the surface of what things like RSS is going to bring to the technological table.

Jeff: You’ve been blogging for quite some time and as I see it, you have a good following of loyal readers. Based on your experiences and your knowledge, if you were to take a TOP-DOWN perspective on where blogging is heading, what would it be?

Steve: I think we are going through a shake up of the blogging world as we speak. It may only be the beginning but it is a shakeup all the same. We are seeing the creation of new media (blogging) conglomerates that are growing to equal many of the old media corporations. This part is were we will probably see the most changes whether it be through mergers of competeing blog networks or the purchasing of smaller popular blogs. Secondly we will see successfull independant blogs that are able to financially support the owner of the “brand” – which is really what will set the successful independent apart – they will be the ones who have understood the whole concept of becoming a brand of which the blog is a part of. And lastly we will always have those who blog for nothing more than the pleasure of blogging – this is what I would call the foundation of our blogosphere because without those who write for the passion of writing the rest of us wouldn’t be here.

Once again Steve, thanks for taking the time out of your day to answer these questions. I ended up learning a thing or two and I bet the readers of this blog will have done so as well. If you haven’t already, please visit http://www.winextra.com and make sure you add it to your feed reader. You’ll be glad you did.

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