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Interview with D. Keith Robinson

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D. Keith RobinsonFor me, Keith Robinson needs no introduction. A great writer, and designer among other things, I see his name popping up all over the place. You might have read some of his works on LifeHacker, A List Apart, among other places. I shot him an e-mail hoping to get his perspective on all the things going on with the blogosphere.

Me: Tell me a bit about yourself. What does the D. at the start of your name mean, and why don’t you use it rather than Keith? What are you interested in? And where can people find you online?

Keith: The D. stands for David, but people often like to think I’m a Dr. If you knew me well this would be pretty damn funny. I don’t use it because I’ve gone by Keith my whole life. I’m not really sure why my parents did that to me.

You can find me online at dkeithrobinson.com or at my company, Blue Flavor. In addition I’m sure if you run a Google search for me you’d find lots of other fun stuff of mine.

Me: You have been involved with some great sites and companies over the last few years. What has been your favourite blog or site to write on thus far and why?

Keith: Well, I think my own blogs have been my favorites. I’ve got a bit more freedom to do what I want there and there is less pressure to write. That makes things easier. I really enjoyed writing for Lifehacker however and would say that’s been my favorite of those that I didn’t own myself. Although I’m currently writing for the Podbop blog and that’s been quite fun as well, I really wish I had more time to devote to that.

Me: Your current personal blog design is absolutely amazing, both in design and as a resource for information on design, writing and development. Why did you move away from 7nights.com/asterisk? And why didn’t all your archives come with you?

Keith: First of all, thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate hearing that kind of feedback! So, the choice to move my domain was a hard one. I think the biggest reason is that I did so much writing that my Movable Type install had become a bit unwieldily. The rebuild times were horrendous and I was having lots of problems with comment spam.

In starting a new company I was finding I had less and less time to work on those things, and I was writing less as well. So I went out on a limb and made a completely clean break; new domain, new CMS, new design, etc. I didn’t see any compelling reason to move the archives because they were fine right where they were.

Keep in mind this was my personal blog, there is pretty little risk in me doing whatever I please with it. Had this been Blue Flavor’s blog I’d most likely have done something a bit more thought out.

Me: How much do you think design matters in a blog’s success? And what about standards based code? Isn’t the content the most important part?

Keith: Content is the most important part. No argument there. To be honest I think it depends on your audience how important those things are. If your readers are Web designers things like standards and good design are very important. You’ve got to walk the walk.

In general good design and proper code will help your blog be successful, for various reasons, but they’re no guarantee and if you’ve got to make a choice you should work on your content.

Now, having said that, I can’t think of a good reason why you wouldn’t want great content, a great design and a properly coded site. That’ll do the most towards making sure your blog is successful.

Me: I know you have tried Movable Type and Expression Engine, among others I am sure. What has been your favourite publishing tool, and why?

Keith: I’d say overall it’s been Movable Type. I’ve found that it’s very powerful and flexible if you’re willing to learn the ins and outs, as I have. It’s a great one for people who are willing to get their hands dirty as you can do lots of customization with it. I imagine, however, that the same could be said for Expression Engine, WordPress, etc. I just have quite a bit more experience with Movable Type.

I will say that I’m really liking Expression Engine quite a bit so far.

Me: What do you think has been the key factor in getting you where you are today? (i.e. Design skills, networking, understanding client needs…)

Keith: Hard work and having a passion for what I do. All of those things you mention are important, but at the end of the day it’s the people that are willing to do the work and love what they do that become successful.

Me: In an interview with the Web Standards Group, you mentioned the “Golden Triangle”.

The “Golden Triangle” I talk about is simply a metaphor I use to illustrate the delicate balance of goals that should be laid out for any successful Web project.

Can you apply it to personal blogging? Or is it a business use only metaphor?

Keith: It can apply to many things. When talking about personal blogging it could be balancing your personal writing goals against your readers level of engagement and the amount of time you’ve got to devote to it. Obviously there isn’t much risk involved with a personal project as you’re the only one who’s likely to have a major stake in things, but the same theories can apply.

Me: You have worked for many large companies before, and seen how they approach the web. Do you think traditional media and big box companies like Microsoft ,or Boeing are ready for the shift that is occurring with the online world via Blogging, podcasting, social media, citizen journalism and the like?

Keith: No.

Just kidding. Really, I don’t think they’re 100% ready yet, but they are starting to pick up on these things. For example there has been great interest in blogging by all of these companies and my guess is things like podcasting are going to follow shortly if they’re not there already.

There are smart, forward-thinking people at these companies and as long as they’ve got interest you’ll see this stuff work its way in.

Me: Thanks again to Keith for taking the time out to do this interview with me. If you have not taken a look at his personal blog, you should. The design is inspiring and his content is great. So check him out at DKeithRobinson.com.

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