Thirty challenges in thirty days. It all sounded so simple when we first got started. I never would have expected that there would be multiple days when I’m typing furiously at the 11th hour to try to squeeze the entry in before the clock ticks over! Or that nearly 60 people would list themselves on the wiki as participating in the challenge. Additionally, there has been a grand total of nearly 700 comments and trackbacks on challenge posts throughout the last 30 days. It really is pretty humbling to have had so many people participate together. And the best thing about it is that while today is the final post of the challenge, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be ending. Anybody can pick up and start the challenge at any time! People who just learned about the challenge yesterday could very easily start themselves back on Day 1 and work through it. And if they do, they’ll have the benefit of all of your comments and links to learn from.
So how to wrap up a project like this? I think the only proper way is to turn it over to the participants. So today’s challenge, final one in the series, is for you to choose your own adventure. I saw Alec Couros mention the old adventure series in a recent blog post, and so many things clicked in my head. To me the idea, and challenge, really takes on two meanings.
Image by mediafury via FlickrThe first meaning is that this last challenge is completely up to you. At some point, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Hey, is he going to cover this or that?” Have you had an idea for a challenge that just never got addressed in the last 30 days? Do you have a challenge that you think would help make participants a better blogger that you want to share? Well, this is your chance. What is your challenge for the other participants? Share your ideas as comments. After some time has passed, I’ll feed through them and repost them all in the body of this final blog post. So if you have more than one idea, make it very clear that it’s a separate one or even submit it as a second comment. But think about your own tips and ideas for each other and post them here.
The other meaning of ‘choose your own adventure’ is more of a suggestion than a challenge I suppose. And that’s simply this: Ignore any and all advice that anybody has ever given you about blogging… if it doesn’t feel right to you. There are no hard and fast rules about blogging. It’s still a new frontier much like the wild west expansion, except in this case the coast is still nowhere in site. We are still learning what works and what doesn’t. What is ethical and what isn’t, what makes for good pedagogy and what doesn’t pass muster.
So what IS the best way to blog? I can tell you what I’ve done before, along with what’s been successful and what has failed. I can share with you my ideas, my theories, and my speculations, but in the end it all comes down to my own gut instinct based on my experiences. And at the end of the day, I’m no more an expert than anybody else who chooses to share their thoughts. If my ideas seem to vibe with you, then I say run with them. But if there’s a shadow of doubt, don’t squelch it, explore it. Your blog is exactly that… yours. Only you are going to know what the right voice will be, what the right tone will be, and what the right look and feel will be.
I’ve been very happy to share with you my ideas for how to be a better blogger, but in the end you’ll be the one traveling on down the path. So be assertive and take control of your own journey. Heed the advice of others, but don’t follow it just because you respect them. Evaluate it for yourself, and so long as you are true to yourself, your blog will be a success, regardless of how you define it.
So with that, consider this the conclusion of the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger challenge! Thank you to everyone that participated in it. I’d like to add a special thank you to John, Jenny, and Jason who put together and maintained the 30D2BBB Wiki. Major kudos to them for taking that on!
And now, I’ll leave the challenge into your very capable hands. Throw down the gauntlet and issue a challenge of your own for the group. And once you’ve done that, return to your own blog and choose your own adventure!
Since today happens to be Thanksgiving, I thought that it might be nice to include one of the things I’m thankful for in this post. In particular, I’m thankful to be a part of a community that places such a huge emphasis on sharing, collaborating and assisting each other whenever possible. That’s one of the great things about the EduVerse. If you need some help, access to an expert or are hunting for a specific resource, there’s thousands of people who are willing to help, provided that you ask. As I mentioned on Day 7, I’ve never been very good at asking people to be guest bloggers. However, I’ve never been shy at asking for other people’s opinions, and often base blog posts on them.
The most obvious example of asking friends or colleagues to blog in conjunction or in response to you, is the various memes you’ll find circulating around. Lee Kolbert was curious to see what other people’s RSS feeds would look like as Wordle’s. She wasn’t shy about it, she not only tagged people in her blog post, but she also sent me a direct message on Twitter. The people who ask are the people who get responses, and people have rallied to the cause. As of this reading, ten people have responded by posting up Wordle’s of their RSS feed.
A few days ago, I did something similar. I wanted to get some of the bloggers who inspire me to share their tips for being a better blogger. I sent them an email and nearly every single one of them responded. Of course, being prolific writers with years of experience, many of them couldn’t stop at just one tip! I’d like to share their responses with you today.
Before I do, let me just outline today’s challenge: Collaborate with somebody or several people on a blog post or meme. Invite other people to share their thoughts on a topic of your choosing, create a meme for other people to participate in, or send a request for people to address a specific question on their blog. Details are up to you, the important part is that it’s collaborative in nature! And of course, be sure to share what you do in comments here.
Without further ado, here are how some of my own favorite bloggers responded to the question: What tip would you give to people striving to be a better blogger?
Order based on when they responded
- Always include a picture that frames your idea (visual literacy)
- Always link…..a blog post should never be without links (link names, blogs, ideas, companies)
- Find your voice….it takes time, sometimes 50+ posts, but keep at it and you’ll find your voice. You were never taught about having a voice on a blog, because blogs weren’t around when you were taught to right. Every blogger has a voice, find your, find your style, and be original with it!
Find your voice. As I have my pre-service teachers delve into this medium, it’s easy to see whose blogs get the most action. It’s the ones who let go the reigns everyone in a while and write from their gut. I can read about almost any topic when passion is evident. For new bloggers this is usually a big risk but well worth it. Write about what fires you up.
Link. Link. Link. Hypertext is the glue of the internet. It is the web. Most new bloggers don’t see this. I advice my students to think about a global audience and don’t assume they know what institution you attend or what town you’re from. I can’t think of any blogger who I consider overlinks. Linking is a generous gift you can give your readers.
Think Nike – just do it. They don’t all have to be gems. If you don’t like it, leave it as a draft. Reread your drafts every once in a while and you’ll have new ideas and the inspiration to polish them off.
First tip – Listen to yourself as you experience other’s writing, media, as well as your interactions. Juxtapose your thoughts and reactions with those ideas…explore the differences, challenge why you agree, or don’t, with them. Then, write from that perspective…what you feel and think matters, don’t belittle…treasure it.
Another tip – share what you are learning as you learn it. We learn every minute of our day, but can only share a small fraction of that, and half-remember ourselves from one day to the next what we learn…share what lies at the edge of consciousness, what you have to remember and wish to externalize for easy reference.Then, you can google yourself…and you will find yourself online.
last one – play with your ideas and your writing, like a cat with a ball of yarn that forgets to hold back. When you can do that with what you’ve learned from others as well as yourself of endless abandonment–play–well, then you’re in the Zone.
Invite people to respond. Write a couple of (hopefully) interesting paragraphs and then ask a question at the end that invites readers to chime in, contribute a resource, etc.!
Thanks for thinking of me. What do YOU think is a great blogging tip to share with others?
Write what you know and talk about what you care about. People who write with passion are forgiven small errors and are engaging to read.
Set up your flickr account to publish directly to your blog. You can use your own (or other’s ) photos by using “Blog this” button, which automatically embeds the photo and whatever text you write. I either do this to blog about, say an event in my own photos, or just using the photo as a metaphor for a thought.
1) Take a break when you need it, rather than forcing your posts. While this depends highly one what type of blogger you are (e.g., professional fulltime vs. part time), sometimes a short hiatus may be what you need to renew your perspective and get you writing again. If the break is
relatively short, there is not a great chance that you should not have to worry about losing subscribers. If you’ve followed the other tips here, there’s a good chance you will already have a stable base.
2) Let change come naturally. If you started out as a certain type of blogger but after some time you’ve realized that you are passionate about something else, go with it. Change is often good. Change your
theme, your tagline, your focus if necessary; whatever it takes to be passionate about writing. Chances are these changes will not be incredibly dramatic so you will not have to sacrifice your readership.
The most important piece is that you are writing about something that is important to you. Your posts will likely be more coherent, powerful, and personal. Share your enthusiasm with you readers.
3) Avoid the echo chamber. There is an inherent danger in an information environment without a critique. Write and comment carefully, and most importantly, critically. Bad ideas quickly become good ones when the mob mentality arrives.
Write about what interests you. That will keep you motivated and will infuse passion and direction into your writing.
Always post the feed URL of your blog someplace permanent on your blog page. This makes it easier for those using a less-popular news reader to aggregate your content.
Don’t be afraid to say something controversial, and, if you want to offer a post that may cause you to be criticized or ridiculed, just shut off commenting on that post. You may be criticized or ridiculed in other places, but at least not on your own blog!
Don’t let content get lost. With many of us microblogging with Twitter and Plurk, I sometimes feel that entire threads of content are being lost in 140 character hunks. If you do have a meaningful, continuing conversation using one of these tools, summarize it afterwards in a blog post so it is more “permanent”.
If you want to make contact with a prominent blogger, mention and link to them in your own blog in some inviting way, since they (we) all have Google Alerts on their (our) own names.
Blog because you are passionate about what you are sharing, not because you feel you have to get a post up for your readers. I would rather read an occasional post that is written with true voice than a slew that were obviously written just to get something up.
Make your blog as personal as possible. I read writing that has a “voice.” If I want dry scholarship, I’ll read a peer-reviewed journal, but I’ll read your blog if you share your personal experiences, ideas, opinions and passions. PLEASE have a good “About Me” page so I can put your writing in context – your job, your location, your years in the profession. Give me a way to contact you off line, please. I could be an e-stalker, but the odds are against it. For many of us, it’s not really educational unless the heart and soul are touched as well as the mind.
I find my best posts come from the heart – I work hard to experience what I am writing and to pretend that someone is sitting right there and that I am talking to them conversationally. Although sometimes, it leaves me exhausted, I think that this conversational/ experiential type of blogging gives me a voice and keeps me focused on my passion: advocating the effective use of technology to reach ALL learning styles in ways that promote academic excellence.
Often, in my blog entries, I find it necessary to include information that is related to the article, but not logically part of the article. A sidebar serves well for quoted explanations, lists of links, and other ancillary info.
There are lots of ways to achieve this, but just a little straight-forward HTML seems to work most consistently for me. Below is some HTML code that I just past into my blog article, at the beginning of the paragraph that should wrap around the sidebar.
<table border="0" width="300"
YOUR SIDEBAR TEXT GOES HERE
This code will produce a 300 pixel wide sidebar aligned to the right (with text wrapping around to the left) with a tan background color. Good luck!
End with the beginning. This is not necessarily a blogging tip, per se, but a writing technique, a way to bring ideas full circle. Example
I find that most people choose not to blog or to share because they feel like someone else has or will do whatever it is that they’re trying to do better. They’re not good enough, or whatever.
The harsh reality is that’s probably true. But what is also true is that no one else will ever do it the way that you do, and you will learn more in the doing than you will in reading someone else’s account of the same thing, even if it’s a very, very good account or blog post or whatever.
So be brave, and write anyway, knowing that there’s value in sharing your experiences in large part because they’re yours.
1. Use your blog to BUILD others up and not TEAR them down. As Thumper was told in Bambi (slight edit here…) If you can’t write somethin’ nice, don’t write anything at all.
2. Count your “I’s” before you hit submit. Count your “me’s”. Could your “should’s”. And count the times you draw attention to yourself. Your blog might be written BY you………..but it doesn’t need to be written ABOUT you.
3. Sometimes you don’t have to hit SUBMIT!!!
Huge thanks go out to everybody who responded. I truly feel honored to have such inspiring and responsive people in my network!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Today’s challenge revolves around one of those concepts in blogging that is often misunderstood: tags. Tagging is more of an art than a science, but it does serve a few very specific purposes. Not every blog employs tagging, nor would I say that it’s absolutely required, but understanding how tags work and what they can do for you is certainly knowledge that every blogger should possess.
At it’s most basic level, a tag is a keyword that you create that serves as an identifier or link for the purposes of searching and/or filtering. By strategically tagging your posts, you provide visitors yet another way to filter through your entries without creating 100′s of categories. For example, while you may put a blog post in the Web 2.0 category, you might tag it with each individual tool and technology mentioned or referred to. Categories are generally higher level and more strategic, tags are typically used in a ‘the more the merrier’ type of approach. You’d never get criticized for using too many tags, unless you’re applying tags that have nothing to do with your post.
One of my early experiences that really drove home the power of tags was when I was doing a search on technorati for “education” and found out that the related tags were Policies, News and…. Warlick? Yes, Warlick was clearly identified as a related tag whenever somebody did a search for “education”. Why? Because he was diligent about tagging every blog post of his with the keywords “education” and “Warlick”. Look up education and you’ll find Warlick. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you blog regularly about mobile devices in education, by adding those tags along with your name and your blog name to your posts you create ways for you to be associated with those topics in searches.
Another purpose for tagging is to add in the keywords that you may not have mentioned in your post. For example, if you’re discussing a new report about social networking, it’s entirely possible that you may not have included some words which might be pertinent to people searching for such information. You may have mentioned that the report covered common social networking sites, but never mentioned any specifics. With this in mind, you might be interested in tagging the post with Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and other social sites. That way, if people search for “education” and “Facebook” they have a chance to find your post, even if you didn’t specifically mention Facebook in your text.
One last purpose that I’d mention is it has become common practice for people to use unique tags to track posts revolving around an event or topic. A perfect example of this is Warlick’s Hitchhikr site. Look up any conference there and you’ll find suggested tags to use. So long as everybody that posts about that conference includes that tag, then sites like Hitchhikr will be able to aggregate them together. It’s becoming increasingly common on microblogging sites, as more and more posts are being created with hashtags.
Some people have much more eloquent explanations of what a tag is and how it’s used. For example, Sue Waters (have I referred to her enough during this challenge?) has an excellent post comparing categories and tags. If you look at the comments on that post, you’lll also find a real gem there. Also, it seems a little cliche, but Wikipedia can always be counted on for some good information.
So what’s the challenge? Simply this, KNOW thy tagging system. Most blogging engines have a way to tag posts. Different versions of WordPress (and Edublogs) have a Tags field below the main content box. Other sites, have it off to the side or down near the bottom of the page. However, just because you add tags to a post, doesn’t mean that they’ll show up there. My current template was not set up to display the tags I added to a post through WordPress. When I realized that none of my tags were showing up, I went into the code of the template and added them in. Take a good close look at your blog engine, determine where the tags go, and start using them in your posts. Remember, you won’t get fined if you use too many tags. But if you use too few, then you may be preventing people from finding your content in searches.
One last related tip. Not all blog engines do have a way to add tags to a post. If not, that’s ok. Just type them in yourself:
Tags: toys, slinky, metal, spring, stairs, fun, cat
Technically, that’ll be enough for search engines to pick up on them. However, you can get bonus points by linking them up to Technorati searches for those keywords. It’s pretty easy to do and Technorati does have instructions. But basically, you put the tag into your post in the following format:
<a href="http://technorati.com/tag/TAGNAME" rel="tag">TAGNAME</a> Copy that into your blog post as many times as you need, and then just substitute in your tags for the TAGNAME slots. Consider that the poor man’s tagging method!
Ok, one more idea, just because I thought it was pretty novel. While doing some searches on tagging, I found a post describing how he put a tag cloud onto his site’s 404 page. So whenever somebody found a dead link (we don’t have any of those anymore though, do we?), instead of just getting a “The page you are looking for could not be found” error, they get a little paragraph explaining things and a tag cloud of all the content on his blog. That encourages people to dig a little deeper to find your potentially missing content, instead of just getting turned away. Love the idea. Just may have to try that one myself!
Do you tag your posts? How do you decide what tags to use? Have you ever found particular benefit to tagging, or is it just a habit at this point? When you visit somebody’s blog and want to explore, do you head off to the categories or the tags first?
Tag image by Amergioland
My blog posts tend to be fairly text heavy, but one thing I’d been trying to do in recent months is to add a little color to them by including images. Without a doubt, there’s no better way to grab someone’s attention than by incorporating an image that piques one’s curiosity. Considering that most of your audience is most likely going to be exhibiting more characteristics of digital natives than immigrants, it bears considering the fact that natives tend to prefer multiple modes of media, and will gravitate to visual media before written.
There are four types of images that you may typically use in a blog post: Screenshots, logos/icons, photos and mashups.
Screenshots are typically used for demonstration purposes. If you’re using a mac, it’s incredibly easy to get screengrabs as the tools are built right into the operating system. On a PC, you need to work at it just a bit more. You’ll need a third party tool to make it easy, and personally I recommend Jing if you don’t want to spend any money. If you don’t mind spending a few bucks, I think Snagit is one of the best, most comprehensive screen capturing apps out there. I’ve never regretted buying it. Either way, screen captures can be incredibly helpful when trying to describe the steps you’re taking to do something, or if you’re discussing a particular feature in an application. Why waste words describing it when you can just be more effective and just show it to them?
The second type is logos and icons, which can be useful when you’re referencing a specific tool, program or website. There may be times where people don’t recognize the name, but they recognize the logo or icon immediately. Even if they do recognize the name, sharing the logo itself in image form can raise all sorts of associations in a readers mind that may not be evoked by just the name. For example, some people get confused when I say I work for Discovery, thinking that it’s a brand of children’s toys or maybe even the Discover Card. However, if they see the Discovery logo on my business card, there’s no question in anyone’s mind anymore. Everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Next up is mashups. I guess I’m using this as a generic term, meaning anytime you’re doing actual customizations of an image. This could mean that you’re creating a graph/chart like Kathy Sierra did, or just marking up screenshots for emphasis and direction like Sue Waters does so effectively. Either way, even when you can’t find the perfect image, you can’t go wrong by making one. If you want to create your own quick and easy graphs, one of my personal favorite sites is CrappyGraphs.com. Yes, I know the name is awful, but it’s a wonderful tool for creating a quick and easy graph when the point you’re trying to make is more important that specific data plots. As for marking up images, I’d personally go back to Jing. For both windows and mac, it does a great job of capturing a part of the screen, uploading it to a server and allowing you to mark it up before you embed it into your blog post. Highly recommended.
Which brings us to photos. Unfortunately, when most people want a photo, they simply go to Google Images and… well, for lack of a better term, ‘steal’ a photo. Even if you cite where you got it, if you don’t have permission to make use of it then you’re breaking the rules. This is such a shame, considering how many places there are to get high quality images that you actually have the rights to use!! I’m just going to share two of my favorites. Of course I’m going to mention Flickr, but not just Flickr in general, rather the Creative Commons section. There are literally millions of photos that you can use there that you can choose based on the rights you need. If you need to modify the image (crop, markup, recolor), then be sure to choose one that allows derivatives. If you need one that you can use for commercial purposes (incorporated into a fund raiser of some sort perhaps), be sure to chose images that allow commercial usage. But otherwise, there are nearly 30 million Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs photos for you to choose from. Not so bad at all. However, if that isn’t enough, one of my favorite sites for images, both for blogs and for presentations, is the Stock.xchng. This is high quality, stock photography that is available for the rock bottom price of… free. These images are truly professional photos that people have shared and are perfect for including into blog posts. The only trouble is that they tend to be rather large, so you’ll need to resize them if your blogging engine doesn’t do it for you (many do at this point tho).
So today’s challenge, in case you didn’t get the ‘picture’ yet (nyuk nyuk) is to incorporate an image into your next blog post.
Do you generally use images in your blog posts? Or do you know of someone who you think does this pretty well on a regular basis? If so, share a link!
30d2bbb image by Jason Robertshaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License
Some people are shamelessly into blogging for the money. Other people could care less if they ever make a buck, but their credibility and reputation mean the world to them. Some people are paid to blog on behalf of their employer and others do it semi-officially on a volunteer basis. Regardless of what flavor blogger you are, I think that for the most people will agree that if a blogger doesn’t have their integrity, they don’t have a stool to stand on. With that in mind, people often want to know where a specific blogger stands. If they recommend a site or product, are they doing so because they are being paid to? Or is it because they genuinely think it’s worth while?
Additionally, if visitors know where you work, people may want to know whether you are writing as a representative of the company, or just on your own. It’s a fine line that is often fraught with ambiguity. For that reason, today’s challenge involves the crafting of a Disclosure Statement. I’ve been thinking that I’ve needed one for almost three years now, but it was never a pressing need so it just kept sliding to the bottom of the todo list. That gets rectified today.
When you boil it all down, the Disclosure Statement is intended to let your readers know where your loyalties lay, who is receiving benefits from your posts, and what outside forces may be influencing your posts. If you have received free hardware, software licenses, or registrations in exchange for your opinions and/or publicity, it should be disclosed. Your employer (in general or specific) should be mentioned, as well as whether you are representing them in any sort of official capacity. If you make money from any parts of your blog, then it should probably be mentioned, as well as any funds you may receive from affiliate programs. Pure and simple, we need to be able to distinguish between when you’re a fan of something, and when you may be sharing about it because you are getting something in return.
You may not think that you need a statement like that. I never did, until my integrity was called into question a few months ago. While I addressed that specific issue at the time, I have thought that I should probably create and post a formal disclosure statement ever since.
I won’t pretend to be an expert in them, but I have found a few different styles for you to consider.
Wesley Fryer keeps it about as simple as you can get. In his sidebar he has the statement “DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are my own and not necessarily those of my employer.” Simple, and to the point. Miguel Guhlin has a pretty similar statement, sharing that “MGuhlin.net–blog, wikis, other writings–Publications (unless specifically labelled with another copyright notice) are licensed under a Creative Commons License and they do not reflect my employer’s views, only my own. Any resemblance to persons living or dead, or to my employer, is purely coincidental.”
There’s nothing actually wrong with the minimalist approach, but depending on what you write about you may want to include a bit more. In particular, if you are making a point of testing and reviewing hardware and software, I think you really need to. UPDATE: Miguel left a comment letting me know that he actually has a much more comprehensive disclosure statement here . Very well written and includes even more than I would expect most people to include. Heh, I don’t think you need to feel obligated to disclose how much you make for any side gigs you do! Regardless, it’s definitely worth checking out.
I browsed around looking for other good examples of more detailed disclosure statements, and the best one that I was able to find happens to be from David Weinberger. His statement does a great job of identifying any potential areas that may call his motives into question. In fact, if anything he errs on the side of caution and discloses far more than I think most would need to. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, he uses very casual language, but there’s no worries about that so long as the message comes through loud and clear. Despite your best intentions, this statement will probably never hold up in court unless you are an attorney. So just do your best to make sure your audience knows where you stand.
A few selections from his disclosure statement that I like:
No one pays me to write this blog or to say particular things in it. That includes all forms of compensation, including offering to shovel my walk or tell me that I look like I’ve lost some weight.
I’m not going to list the companies I’m currently working for because that’s between them and me. There aren’t many of them. I will disclose them (and have disclosed them in the past) if I talk about them on my blog. (None of them has ever asked me to mention them, btw.)
Authors sometimes send me free copies of their books. Often, explicitly or implicitly, they are looking for a mention. If I like the book, I may indeed mention it. If the author is a friend of mine, I’m pretty likely to mention it — because that’s what friends do — and I’m also much more likely to like it than some book that arrives from a PR agent. I’m probably not going to tell you that I got a free copy. Why? Because it doesn’t matter and because it makes me feel like I’m boasting. Also, it reads funny.
All I can promise is that I will be honest with you and never write something I don’t believe in because someone is paying me as part of a relationship you don’t know about. Put differently: All I’ll hide are the irrelevancies.
I like the frankness, the honesty in there. When you finish reading it, you have a great baseline for understanding where his motivations and interests lie.
Last thing I’m going to mention before going off to work on my own, is to point out that you also have some options for where this one should sit. While I’ve seen some people put a link to it in their footer, I think it should get a little better placement than that. More than likely the statement or a link to it belongs in your sidebar, or if not there then as part of your About page. Pure and simple, somebody who’s looking for it should be able to find it pretty easily. If you go for the minimalist method, then you could easily put the entire thing in your sidebar. Perhaps do what Miguel did and lump it in with your Creative Commons statement.
Do you have a Disclosure Statement on your blog already? If so, what does it include? Do you know of any other good examples amongst educators? Or non-educators for that matter! If you are creating one as part of this challenge, share a link to it in the comments below so we can learn from it as well.
This isn’t exactly the ideal time for this post, but I just realized that we’re one week away from the end of our 30 day challenge! So let me say a quick ‘hurrah!’ to everyone that is keeping up. Maybe you aren’t doing every challenge every day, but if you’re still tuned in and intent on improving your blogging ‘chops’, then major kudos to you! As I was saying, this isn’t the best time to be doing this, mostly because Thanksgiving is coming up this week, but since we’re running out of time we’ll step up anyway.
Today’s Challenge has to do with basic planning. I have to admit, I do most of my blogging spur of the moment. I’m not so good at planning in advance, but I do think many great bloggers do. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say even if the great ones don’t plan each post in advance, they at least HAVE a plan for making sure that their have frequent postings on their blog and ensure that things don’t go stale.
It’s a constant challenge for every blogger, especially when you feel like nobody is reading. When you don’t have a big community responding often, it’s easy to think nobody is reading, and when you feel like nobody is reading, you may not feel like writing. But if your blog isn’t showing regular signs of life, with posts coming at least once or twice a week minimum, then when people do visit they often just come and go. Not only that, but until you get into a routine, it’s hard to make the time in the day needed to blog. It takes a commitment for it to become habit and creating a posting plan can be a big part of that.
When everybody first starts blogging, they overestimate their blog-stamina. EVERYONE thinks they’ll be the one to blog every single day, or at least every other day. Some people even keep it up for a week or more. But for most people. especially with those who have a job, family or life, blogging day in and day out is simply unrealistic. So let’s step back for just a omment and think things through.
How often will you realistically be able to blog? Don’t think about how often you’ll post in an ideal world, be realistic and try to think what’s the minimum number of posts that you’ll do in a given week. I say week because if you really intend to be a better blogger, you should be posting at least once a week. And perhaps that’s all you want to commit to! There’s nothing wrong with that. If you feel up to two times or three times a week, even better, but don’t fool yourself into setting an unrealistic goal.
Once you’ve figured out your magic number, plan out how you’re going to hit that number for the week. What days do you want to make sure you’ve got your posts up by? Don’t let them build up so you cram them all in at the end of the week. Pick dates and stick to it.
In fact, if you want to take it a next step, you can even get them started right now. Create drafts with potential titles and save them. That way you can come back to them throughout the week and already have some of the work done. Instead of just flagging items in your aggregator to write about, or keeping browser tabs/windows open, grab the link and create a new blog post for it, even if you don’t have time to finish it just yet. Then save it and plan out in your own head when you’ll be posting it. That way when you realize that it’s the day you promised yourself you’d get a post up, you’ll already have your inspirations right there in front of you, ready to be fleshed out.
So even though it’s Thanksgiving week, plan out your blog schedule for the week and some ideas for what you’ll be posting. Obviously with the holiday and all, it’s a great time to look around and share what you’re thankful for, whether it be online or offline.
Are any of you ‘planners’ already? If so, share a few tips for how you organize your blogging schedule. It’s something that I’ve never been very good about but really want to improve myself!
30d2bbb image by Jason Robertshaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License
This is another one of those challenges that really drew me to ProBlogger’s challenge initially, and made me decide to create my own mashup of it. Darren challenged his participants to define a mission statement for their blog, a challenge that I now present to you. You know your blog is important to you. You’ve invested quite a bit of time into it. Heck, if you’re at this point in the challenge, you’ve committed the last 21 days to becoming a better blogger! But have you ever really spent much time sitting down and analyzing exactly why you’re doing it? Why have you committed such a significant chunk of life to sharing via your blog online?
That’s what we’re thinking about during today’s challenge. The critical question being, “Why do you blog?” Darren suggested that people boil it down to simple statements, like,
* ‘I blog to make a living’
* ‘I blog for recreational purposes – to help me relax’
* ‘I blog as part of my plan for world domination’
* ‘I blog to keep a record of the life and times of me’
* ‘I blog because I want to help others’
* ‘I blog to because I’m lonely and want to connect with others’
* ‘I blog to pick up cute girls/guys’
* ‘I blog because it’s fun’
* ‘I blog because I want to build profile – I want to be known’
While all of these are worthy pursuits, some more so than others, I’m thinking that you can probably dig a little deeper than that as well.
Start off with the surface ideas. Think about what drew you to blogging in the first place and why you started blogging. Then think about why you’re continuing to do it today. Do you blog for the same reason now that you did when you started? Is your blog professional, personal or both? Is it a place to share unbiased, impartial information or are you posting your thoughts and opinions? Are you restraining yourself to specific topics on your blog, or is it wide open?
As Darren says in this post:
This is not a question about measurable goals or strategies and your answer probably shouldn’t be too blog specific… rather get at your motivations and big picture hopes for your blogging.
Be honest with yourself too. No deluding yourself into listing more altruistic motivations Call it like it is. If some of your motivations are shallow, so be it. Accept that, embrace it and see how that fits in with the rest. I’ve never been shy about letting people know that I have the ego of a middle schooler, and one of the reasons I blog is because getting recognition for the work and writing that I do is very motivating to me. I have plenty other reasons for blogging too, but without a doubt public recognition is on the list.
With all that in mind, today’s challenge is to list out “Why do you blog?” You can do so publicly on your blog, publicly as a comment here or just do it as an exercise in private. I suggest you share it on your blog though. It let’s readers know what sort of lens they’ll be peering through when they read your content. And I think it’s very cathartic to share your thoughts publicly. It really forces you to define things.
So, why do I blog?
- I want to celebrate my successes with people who understand.
- I want to share my failures with people who can learn from them.
- My job requires me to.
- I feel like it’s an important part of the learning process, although I’m still trying to pin down exactly why.
- Because I get angry at things that people say or write and want to respond… publicly.
- Knowing that people enjoy reading what I write is a major ego boost.
- I feel that if I recommend other people blog, I have to be doing so myself.
- As much time and effort goes into each post, clicking ‘Publish’ feels really good.
- Trying to put my ideas into written form helps me solidify my own thinking.
- I find sharing my ideas to be very rewarding, intrinsically and extrinsically.
- Yes, it’s all part of my master plan to take over the world.
That’s it for me… for now. I think i may have to return to this one later and do some editing. Until then though, share your mission statement, here or on your own blog. Either way, leave a comment below and link us up so we can find it!
Everybody loves a comment on their blog. It let’s you know that your post made someone think. That somebody agreed with you or disagreed with you enough to do some typing. It validates your work and continues the conversation, often generating new ideas and questions for yourself.
…All too often, people think blogging = writing.
Blogging REALLY = writing + listening + responding + reading + arguing + listening some more + rethinking + revisiting
When bloggers get stuck in the “blogging is about the posts that I write” mindset, all we’ve got in the blogosphere is a heaping cheeseload of digital soapboxes, don’t we?
The commenting side of blogging has been great fun because it forces me to consider my own positions related to the author’s initial posts. Sometimes I agree, other times I disagree—but articulating that response ALWAYS improves my own understanding.
He’s dead on. And for that reason, it’s incredibly important to respond to your comments. While you can respond publicly on your blog, or privately via email, I believe the best solution is to do both. I’ve been pretty awful about this during the challenge, mostly due to time constraints, but typically I respond to comments directly via email, but then copy and paste that into a comment on the blog as well so it is embedded into the conversation for future visitors. It demonstrates that you respect your reader’s opinions enough to consider them a part of the conversation.
For today’s challenge, we’re going back to commenting with a slightly different spin. Your challenge for today is to integrate a comment into a new blog post of yours. This can be a comment that somebody left for you on your own blog (like I’ve done in this post), or a comment that somebody left on somebody else’s blog. This may require a little digging, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Honestly, there are times where the comments left on a blog post are perhaps more significant than the blog post itself.
Take a little time to find a comment that you think is worth promoting into a blog post, or integrating into one. Don’t forget to link directly to the comment itself on the blog post it came from and whenever possible, throw a link to the commentor’s blog as well.
And then leave a comment here explaining why you chose the comment that you did and where we can find your post! Oh, and if you haven’t listed yourself on the 30D2BBB wiki yet, be sure to do so.
30d2bbb image by Jason Robertshaw is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License