For 2011, I Gave My Blog a CrowdSourced Facelift — Well, Sort Of…

So, you may have noticed the new look for my blog and want to know, “Why the change?”

When I originally started this blog, I did it as an experiment; I didn’t give a lot of thought about the long-term breadth of topics I wanted to cover beyond “Software as a Service” nor the blog’s overall positioning. I thought that if it garnered a few followers I would circle back and consider its “look and feel” and branding.

Well, after 2 years since starting there are now nearly 2,000 people who read this blog each month, so I consider it to be a successful experiment – especially given the fact I’m not some Hollywood celebrity such as Ashton Kucher who apparently has a ton of interesting and intelligent things to say/tweet. Consequently, I felt it was time to finally “circle back” and put some serious thought into branding/positioning/etc.

The first thing about my blog I wanted to change was the title, “SaaS and All Things Software”. I wanted to do this for several reasons. Over the past few years, SaaS has evolved into something a lot bigger – “Cloud Computing”. Cloud Computing includes DaaS, PaaS and IaaS as well as SaaS and I am involved in companies and technologies in all these areas and others. Second, I have many other comments I’d like to make that go beyond “SaaS and All Things Software” and I’d like the blog’s title/message to be broad enough to encompass those observations.

I chose the title, “Rolling Thunder” for two reasons. The first is that it ties into “Cloud Computing”; Thunder. Clouds. Duh. The second reason is that Rolling Thunder is a PR term meaning “continuous communications”. I thought that it fit nicely with the intent of the blog. So, that’s the rationale behind the name.

Based upon the recommendation from one of my partners at InterWest,  I decided to try and use crowdsourcing to come up with a new design. So, I signed up with Crowdspring. Crowdspring is one among a number of websites that features 10’s of thousands of designers (called “creatives”) who look for interesting projects (e.g. websites, blogs, stationery, logos, wedding themes, etc.) that are posted by “non-creatives” (my term) like me.

After signing up, I created a project, described what I was looking for in a new blog design, and pointed the “creatives” to my existing blog for ideas. In the initial set up, I had to come up with an award amount for my design – it has to be at least $200. In this case, I chose $500 to make sure my project received enough attention.

In total, I recieved about 40 different designs to consider. I ended up selecting one design style from all the other entries. However, that was simply a design. I still had to have it converted into an actual WordPress Theme. This wasn’t within the designers skill sets so I took the design to the web programming firm we use (HyperArts) and had go through a few more design iterations as well as having them convert the design into an active WordPress theme.

Although the Crowdspring approach didn’t give me a “blog ready” result, had I gone the traditional route, I would have spent several thousand dollars in design fees and would have been restricted to just a single firm’s imagination and skills. With crowdsourcing, I had access to many designers and felt I received a lot of creative ideas that influenced the final design outcome.

I relied upon Crowdspring to handle all the financial details, etc. It made it relatively simple and straightforward. None of this would have been possible a few short years ago. Pretty amazing stuff. My only negative comment is that most of the designs submittted are simply repurposed stock art so you aren’t really getting anything “custom” — at least not for the $500 award I offered. But, you do get some creative uses/adaptations of stock art and for my purposes this worked fine.

With that, welcome to my “new and improved” blog. I look forward to interacting with all of you in 2011 and beyond on topics that include SaaS but will branch out to general observations on a variety of things I find interesting…and, hopefully, so will you.