Blogception: A blog about blogging

I’ve been asked by Emma Flint, Birmingham Law School lecturer and lovely lady, to write a blog about blogging. So this blog is full of my thoughts, hints and tips for good practice when starting a blog. (I leave it up to you to decide whether I am qualified to give such advice)

blogception

Make time to write

This is not easy by any means! Maintaining a blog whilst trying to balance work and life commitments isn’t simple. If you can set yourself an hour a week to write a post all the better. It does require discipline and if you can’t commit to it, ask yourself whether there is any point in starting. There’s something eerie about stumbling on someone’s blog that hasn’t had a post on it since 2013. It’s a bit like the opening scene of 28 days later.

What are you writing a blog about?

Is it about you and your life? Is it about travel, food or politics for example. Is it about your work/job? Once you know what your blog is going to be about it makes answering the following questions a lot easier.

For Who/why are you writing a blog?

I’m not asking about your audience here, that will be addressed shortly. I am asking why you are writing a blog and who you are writing it for? Are you writing it just for you? Are you writing for pleasure or reflection? Do you care who reads it? Are you blogging for your employer? Or for potential employers? It’s important to think about this as it will influence your tone and style, the kind of posts you write and even how candid you are.

Who is your audience?

Similar to my first question but subtly different, once you know why and for whom you are writing your blog you need to think about your audience.  What are they interested in reading? What tone will be appropriate? How honest can you be in your writing?

How much of ‘you’ are you comfortable sharing?

What I mean by this is how much personality are you comfortable with showing online. Remember publishing online is very exposing. It can make you feel very vulnerable. You are exposing yourself to potential criticism especially if you are sharing your ideas and opinions. You may get comments that criticise or disagree with you. You do need to ready yourself for that possibility. You need to decide how much of yourself you want to protect.

I share where I work and what I do for a living (only because that’s publicly available on the web anyway). I share my opinions and ideas on topics in Higher Education. I do not share anything about my personal life and that is a conscious decision I have made. I know plenty of people who blog about their personal lives and do so without incident. I share these posts with people who are frankly more intelligent and knowledgeable on the subjects than I am. I am prepared for the fact that they may disagree. But I am doing this for me, not for them. How candid are you going to be with your opinions? I have to strike a careful balance between giving my opinion and not saying anything that criticises my employer or others.

Inspiration

I can’t tell you where to find ideas for your posts. Read, keep your eyes peeled, talk to people and go out into the world. Inspiration can come at the most unlikely moments. You might be out and about and suddenly think “that would be a good blog post” but you don’t have time to write it there and then. So if you have a notepad or mobile device write it down and make a few notes about what you want to say. Then go back later and write it. I use WordPress which has an app which I use on my mobile phone. If I have an idea I can quickly write it down. I’ve even written a post whilst in a car on the A1.

Content, content, content!

What your blog looks like is fairly immaterial. Yes, they need to be able to navigate and read it but seriously don’t spend hours making it look pretty it. It’s a waste of time. Spend that time on your posts. Honing your writing, reading and re-reading. Adding references, linking to useful pieces of information and creating some multimedia is a far more worthy use of your time. People are here to read what you have to say not judge your web design skills.

Also if you refer to someone else’s site, materials, tweets, images etc. remember to attribute and link to it directly! Pay it forward guys!

Enticing titles

As you will see from this post, I like to give my posts stupid titles. Firstly because it’s a bit of fun for me and also I hope it might draw people in. I don’t know if it works but I enjoy it.

Timing is key

If you want people to read your posts timing is key. There is no point posting it at midnight. No one’s going to see it. Also talking about news, changes to legislation etc. are most interesting to read about at the time. If you’re writing about an event you’ve been to, writing about it before you forget what happened and whilst people are interested in reading about it. Writing about something months after the ‘buzz’ has cleared is not an optimum way to get people to read it. If you do, write about the effect the event/legislation etc. has had. That kind of analysis can be really interesting.

Getting it out there for people to read

How are you gonna get people to read it? If you don’t care about anyone reading it then move on to my next tip. If you do then think about where you are going to share it there are loads of options, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. The more places you share it the more traffic you will drive. Twitter is great because of retweets and likes. Plus you can tag other people, companies, organisations, hashtags etc. in the tweet and broaden your audience!

 Which platform?

To me, this is the least important decision but one you do need to make. There are loads of blogging sites out there a lot are free, some you have to pay for. You also need to think about the URL or domain your blog will be accessed by. I pay to have my kerrypinny.com URL and I pay WordPress.com to map my domain for me. It equates to around £20 a year. I am happy with that. You can have a totally free account but you will have to use their URL/domain and will be limited in terms of media storage etc. You could download the full WordPress platform and host it yourself on a server or pay someone else to host it. You get a lot more freedom and storage than on WordPress.com but I certainly couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. Whichever one you chose they will all give you slightly different features and pricing options so research carefully and choose whichever will make be easiest for you to use.

Below is a list of free options:

  1. WordPress
  2. Contentful
  3. Jekyll
  4. Tumblr
  5. Blogger
  6. Medium
  7. Svbtle
  8. Weebly
  9. Postach.io
  10. Google Sites

 

Live blogging: Genius or Madness?

Laptop

I have owned these domains for years and yet I have never got around to setting it up. Chiefly because there is always something else I should be doing.

So why have I finally got round to enabling this website? Well tomorrow I will be attending UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2 conference and thought what better time to finally set up my website.

I am thinking of taking my first foray in to live blogging. Genius idea? Or total madness that I will abandon shortly after starting.

Why not tweet?

Tweeting is something I love doing at events and I plan to do so at the conference. It’s particularly powerful for sharing pertinent points and interesting revelations. Tweeting an event is sometimes called microblogging. So why don’t I just use Twitter?

Well I can only tweet 140 characters, at the moment, which has it’s pros and cons.

Pro – Succinctness, powerful, brevity

Con – Not a lot of flexibility

If you add a link or tag others you’ve lost a lot of characters. Once they drop links, @’s and media from the limit as the propose to, details here,  it will be far more fit for the blogging purpose.

Plus, you can have too much of a good thing. Tweets lose some of their power when they are lost amongst hundreds of other tweets made at the same time. Less is more.

Laptop, tablet or phone?

WordPress have a fabulous app which means I can blog from my phone or a tablet as well as my laptop. I don’t know whether this venue will be lecture style or tables, or whether sockets will be frelly available.

If there aren’t tables then the laptop and tablet are uncomfortable to try and balance on the lap.

My phone at least allows me to blog from anywhere but again can be very uncomfortable and the accuracy of my ‘typing’ can go rather awry.

Annoying my neighbours

There is something very annoying about the quiet clacking of a keyboard when you are trying to concentrate. I don’t want to annoy the people sat around me. Or worse distract them with the ungraceful balancing of my laptop.

Phone it is.

Seeming ignorant

I have been brought up to look at people when they are talking to me. I am one of those weird people nodding away emphatically at the presenters at conferences. There’s nothing worse than getting no feedback from an audience whatsoever. I’ve been there. It’s very uncomfortable and leads to embarrassing moments of overcompensation.

If I am glued to my device blogging will the presenters think I am not listening or worse that what they are saying is boring?

Concentration

I think my biggest challenge will be concentrating on what’s being said whilst trying to write something quickly which needs to make sense. Grammar is not one of my strongest skills. Yes I can come back later and tidy it up but I don’t like to chuck out any old rubbish online.

I’m going to write one anyway at some point

The main reason I am going to try it is because I am going to write one anyway at some point. So I may as well do it when the memories are freshest.

Preparation is the key

I’m going to get all of my posts set up so all I have to do is complete the body text.

Wish me luck.