Siobhan Quinn, Google PM, answers your questions; Express yourself!

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Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions and support YallaStartup! Here’s my answers and best to all of you!

How do you prepare for a new feature in Blogger, like what are the steps you take as a PM to get a feature into blogger from the point where you listen to user’s feedback until the engineer works on it and then released to new users. How long is that cycle on average ?

Inspiration for new features is everywhere. It comes from our users, from other cool products, from our day to day problems. Inspiration also happens all the time. So the hard thing is deciding which idea is worth investing in, which idea will produce the biggest impact in your product.

At the start of every quarter we throw all our ideas on the board with no judgement. Then we remind ourselves of product’s core mission. Core to Blogger’s mission is simplicity. Armed with our mission we then define how we will measure success towards accomplishing that mission. For example, do you measure success in terms of site visits? users? amount of content published?

At this point we have: lots of ideas, our mission statement, and the yardsticks we’ll use to measure success. For each feature idea we ask: 1) is this feature core to our mission? 2) how will this feature will affect the metrics we care about? and 3) what is the cost? At the end of the planning period we’ve discarded a lot of cool ideas, and chosen the ones that we believe will produce the biggest impact and have the largest effect on the metrics we care about.

Then we get to work. Product managers create specs, designers mock designs, and engineers build code. Depending on complexity, some features take many months, some take only a few weeks. Though we’ve found this process works pretty well, it’s not perfect. New ideas emerge mid-quarter and may trump already well laid plans. But execution is all about being flexible and iterating quickly, so if we see a great opportunity at any time, we’ll jump on it.

Are there any foreseeable plans for blogger to become a fully mature blogging platform that will compete with WordPress? Here are my top requested feature list: 1) Full user management. Where you can assign roles to members (Editors, Admins, Authors … etc) 2) Full support for hosting your blog locally on your premises.

We know some users will always want complete control over every aspect of their blog; hosting with WordPress is great for that. Blogger aims to be the easiest platform for the power blogger that doesn’t want to worry about hosting, about code, or about scaling their blog handle traffic. Blogger is free and easy. Blogger currently provides both an Administrator role and an Editor role. Only Administrators can control settings, layout, and edit all posts. Administrators can invite Authors to publish to the blog as well.

What do you view as the future for blogging?

As more users get online and become comfortable sharing content with their social networks, I believe many will want to control the presentation of that content through a blog. Users will be able to merge their Facebook, Twitter, and Buzz posts with long form content on their blog, and publish it at a URL where the user can fully control the site’s design. I believe design tools will improve, and users will consider their blog as “who they are on the web” and it will reflect their personal brand. Finally, with so many people publishing content, users are experiencing information overload. I believe that the role of content Editor or Curator will be incredibly important for readers that want help filtering the content they care about from the rest.

With such diverse efforts spanning Orkut and Blogger, and now most recently, Wave and Buzz, Google seems to be investing more into social media than ever before.

  • How would you define Google’s social media strategy?
  • How does it fit into the evolving philosophy of Google’s expanding offerings?
  • And how is user privacy being factored into all of this?

I can’t speak for Google’s overall social strategy, but I can say that Blogger plays a critical role in helping users express themselves online. Through Blogger people share their personality, not only through the words they write, but also through presentation of those words on the web. Blogger has recently focused on enabling users to create unique, beautiful blog designs ( so users can create blogs that truly reflects their unique personalities. Blogger’s role in Google’s social strategy is to enable self expression because it reveals who we are and brings us together.

Anonymity is fundamental to free expression, and therefore privacy incredibly important to Blogger and Google. Last year Blogger integrated with Friend Connect, and in the final weeks before launch we found a bug that might compromise the privacy of a tiny number of users. Finding this problem as the last minute was disheartening but we knew we needed to fix it. We degraded the service for thousands of users, and delayed the launch, in order to protect the privacy of this small group.

Can you help share tips about how to make a blog successful?

Leverage Social Media

Social media services (like Facebook, Twitter, and Buzz) are great ways to build your audience and get people returning to your blog. It’s easy to cross publish your blog posts as Facebook Notes and also automatically send a tweet to your Twitter Followers. If you don’t use such services already, set up a profile and prompt users to follow you on various networks. Also make it easy for your readers to share and rate your content with widgets from services like Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon.

Be an active contributor in the blogosphere

It’s important to reach out to like-minded bloggers and develop a relationship with them. Find other blogs (or static sites) have something in common with your own and start a conversation with the author. Add them to your Blog List or Follow their blog. By actively engaging other users you’ll build your blog’s reputation and others will link back to you.

Engage Your Audience

Readers want to be where the conversation is at. That means blog regularly. It’s also important to engage your users in the comments or other social widgets on your blog. Readers want to know that they are heard too 🙂

Use Email

Most users have never heard of a feed reader, let alone use one. That’s why email is still a great way to share posts with your readers. Feedburneroffers a great widget that lets readers receive email notices when you’ve written a new post.

Create a Unique Brand

With the launch of the Blogger Template Designer (to Blogger In Draft), it’s easier than ever to create a professional, unique blog. Create a design that reflects your voice and brand. Also use Blogger’s custom domain feature to choose a non-blogspot URL that reflects your blog’s brand.

We know that the main income for bloggers is online advertising, but in MENA area this industry is still very small comparing it to EU or US and even some parts of Asia.My question is what are your plans to solve this issue, Blogger and Google behinds it is the biggest player in this field, and if Google makes a step tens of other companies will follow it. So the question again is, what are the next plans for online adverting for bloggers in MENA area.

Worldwide Blogger users make tens of millions of dollars a year through advertising, but there are other opportunities to make money. Becoming an Amazon Affiliate is a good example where Amazon will pay you if someone clicks from your blog to buy a product. Over half of Blogger’s traffic comes from outside the United States, helping non-US and EU bloggers generate revenue, and we only expect this to grow as more people come online around the globe.

Does Google see an opportunity in utilizing blogs to uncover and remedy some real social problems in the MENA region?

By enabling free speech in all regions, Blogger & Google hope to let every story be heard, and give everyone a voice. According to Alexa, Blogger is the 6th most visited site in Iran, the 8th in Turkey, and the 9th in Egypt, and among all MENA regions Blogger ranks in the top-15 visited sites. We are committed to making it as easy as possible to publish content in MENA and are dedicated to improving the quality of Blogger in the region. We are working to reduce latency for MENA users, improve text translations, and hook into regional social networks and sites. It’s imperative that people can freely publish content around the world, and we’re working hard to make it as easy as possible.

About Siobhan Quinn

Siobhan is a Product Manager of Blogger at Google, the web’s largest blogging platform. Siobhan defines Blogger’s product vision and strategy, and works closely with engineers to oversee the execution of that vision through the entire product life cycle.

Before joining Google’s Product team, Siobhan worked as an engineer on Google Page Creator and Google Accounts, and was involved in launching many Google products, including Gmail, Personalized Search, and Google Checkout. Siobhan graduated with Honors from the University of Washington where she received a BS in Computer Science.

Siobhan’s interests include creating technology that enables self expression and personal creativity, cooking, and spending time with her dog Seamus.

Photo credit: creation_inspiration

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