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Who’s Louis Gray?

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At a time when blogging is evolving and the high-tech landscape is being dominated by blog publishers such as TechCrunch, GigaOm and Mashable as well as blogs operated by mainstream media, it is good to see that it’s still possible for one-man/woman shop to capture the spotlight using a combination of quality content, enthusiasm and energy.

Some good examples of people who have jumped on the scene include Paris Lemon, Tony Hung and The Last Podcast. These days, one of the hottest one-man shows on the tech blogging scene is Louis Gray, who has literally come out of nowhere in the past few month. Now, Gray is literally everywhere – breaking stories, providing in-depth coverage of new startups such as FriendFeed, and cementing himself within the Techmeme 100.

So I asked myself “Who is this Louis Gray guy, anyway?”. Rather than speculate, I figured the best approach was to simply ask Louis Gray himself. Here’s a Q&A we did recently.

Who is Louis Gray?

I’m a 31 year-old Silicon Valley resident living in Sunnyvale, Ca. with my wife, and our 18-year-old beagle. We’re also expecting twins in the July timeframe, a boy and a girl, which just might be a little disruptive. I’m one of those odd people with a liberal arts degree who is completely enamored with technology, but can’t code much more than HTML and simple JavaScript, so I cling to all things technology from a consumer perspective. I also enjoy the culture and innovation available in the Valley and it’d be hard to think of living anywhere else. After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1999, I was already working at a small startup in Burlingame, and have been doing the startup thing ever since – both in real life, and through engaging with entrepreneurs on the blog.

How long have you been blogging?

I’ve been blogging in a few places since 2004, starting with a multi-author family blog in 2004, which my mother had started. I also contribute to a few SportsBlog Nation blogs, including Athletics Nation (www.athleticsnation.com), covering the Oakland A’s baseball team, and Sactown Royalty (www.sactownroyalty.com), covering the Sacramento Kings basketball team. I started working with Athletics Nation in 2005 and Sactown Royalty in 2006. I’ve also contributed to the Apple Blog (www.theappleblog.com) since 2006, although I’ve been much more focused on my own site of late, and have admittedly been a horrible slacker there.

While I’d had my own personal home page way back in 1995, hosted from my UC Berkeley dorm room, and registered louisgray.com for the first time back in 1999, I didn’t transform it into blog form until January of 2006, after finally finding a working solution that let me post and save files to the FTP server behind louisgray.com.

One of the major reasons I started blogging on louisgray.com, instead of sticking with the family’s blog, was that, as with most families, not everybody shares my same interests. While I would get excited about what Apple or Google were doing, they wouldn’t, and I didn’t feel it was right to post with the kind of regularity there that I could on my own site.

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Why do you blog?

Why I blog has changed over time, as we’ve changed our focus and grown relationships and readers. I originally started to make comments on what I was seeing in technology, from Apple to Google to TiVo, or to make comments about life in general, but have really enjoyed the resulting conversations and discovery that’s been made possible through blogging. Now, I have the ability to make change at some of the most innovative companies, through conversations, where I couldn’t before. Also, I’ve been able to help expose and promote new services that have come to market but aren’t well known, especially in the RSS and lifestreaming arena. Being part of their intiial success and growth can be exciting.

In the past few months, your blog has jumped into the spotlight and became a staple on Techmeme. What are you doing differently?

Ideally, TechMeme rewards new content from bloggers who deliver original thought and influence. TechMeme gravitates to those who are not just reporting on the news, but those who can deliver a unique angle and ignite conversations.

If anything, we had a good streak of luck at the beginning of the year in discovering new services like ReadBurner, MergeLab, RatingBurner and LinkRiver, and have become something of a clearing-house for new companies in this space to launch, including recent entries like Toluu, BlogRize, and Social|Median. On those occasions where posts I write hit TechMeme that aren’t part of a new service’s launch, it can be a surprise, but I’m honored when it does. I certainly don’t write with the intention of reaching TechMeme, or Digg, or StumbleUpon, or any third party service, but instead write to try and get the story across, accurately and in an interesting way.

How much time do you spend blogging/day? How many posts do you like to write a day/week?

I typically write about 1-2 posts a day. If I have a gap of any more than 36 hours between posts, I tend to feel guilty and wonder if I’m letting people down. But I know that being a one-person shop means I can’t try to match up with the larger blogging networks who have a stable of reporters.

How does your employer feel about your blog?

I try to keep the work life and blog life separate, but I have a number of strong advocates at the office, including some who read every day. Still, not everybody knows about the blog, and it’s not as if I’ve added it to my company e-mail signature.

Where do you work and what do you do?

In my day job, I work in corporate marketing for a private Silicon Valley technology company, focused on public relations, demand generation and content creation. I do the best I can to have a firewall between work activity and LouisGray.com to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest, and to avoid breaking any confidentialities. As a result, I don’t blog about the company, their specific industry in general, or comment on our customers’ activities. Just about the most you’ll see me talk about work on the blog is to say I’ll be traveling for a few days to an event.

What kind of advice would you offer bloggers looking to carve out a niche and/or build an audience?

I still don’t feel “big enough” to be offering advice, but I’d say to write about what you find interesting, and have a passion about. Recognize that many other blogs are out there, and even if you pick a specific niche, there are probably already some big blogs out there who can outpost you and have been posting longer. I have been lucky in that two of the major trends in Web 2.0 over the last 12 months have been the rise of social link sharing sites and new ways to approach RSS, which just so happen to be where I’ve been focused. That convergence, and some luck on my part in picking more winners (like FriendFeed, ReadBurner and Toluu) than losers has given me a little credibility and a good audience.

What kind of topics do you like writing about?

I like writing about topics that haven’t already been trodden over a dozen times by other bloggers. While it’s clear I have a serious focus on next-generation RSS readers, link sharing and aggregation, and lifestreaming, I still like talking up Apple, Google, TiVo, or sports. I’ve just found that as with my family blog, I need to write to my readers, and that they don’t care as much about sports as I seem to, so I usually take that elsewhere. I hope that when I do post, it’s seen as someone who has really looked into the topic, and isn’t trying to fill a post quota or push ads, but instead, as a tech fan who wants to be part of the conversation and helping push ideas forward.

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