Blogging “In Plain English”
As one of the editors/administrators for the new yet to be named and focused blog for the Postcolonial Theology Network I am going to write a blog post on the essentials (in my opinion anyway) of blogging for those folks within the network who want to contribute to the blog and for folks to get a better idea of the blog.
First off, please watch this very short and very concise and helpful video by the Common Craft Show on blogging.
OK, now you guys have a general feel for what blogs are, now I wanna get into the nitty gritty of good bloggin’.
First, you need a wordpress account, get one, and then tell me to add you to the Postcolonial Blog Network blog. Once you do that check out this short video on how to edit your account in order to properly identify yourself on said blog.
The point of a blog post and of a blog is not to write gigantic tomes or huge articles that are 10,000 words or more. The point of blogs is to convey concise information that is both relevant to the reader and not too much that the reader can’t handle it. On the Internet people don’t tend to spend a lot of time reading blog posts or articles and one must always keep this in mind. One must write blog posts that are as short and concise as you can (this is why linking is important, more on that latter).
A good blog post will convey, normally, a single idea. Often times, as scholars, we have a thesis for a paper we need to write and we need to back up our thesis as exhaustively as possible and conveying multiple ideas to the reader and playing them off each other. This is not how to blog. A blog post should convey one idea which you can then link back to on a latter blog post to back up another idea you are playing around with in a blog.
Also, one good rule of thumb is to write blog posts that are anywhere from 250 to 1,300 words, anything longer than that will be too much for the reader to handle. Remember, if you want to write long posts than blogging isn’t the tool you should use(there are exceptions however) as there are plenty of other tools out there to convey ideas that require extremely complex nuance.
One thing I tend to do is that if a blog post of mine runs 800 words or more I put a break within the blog post which looks like this:
This will give the reader the option to continue reading, it is also better on the eyes as long posts tend to “push down” previous blog posts further down the page, plus, it is better for the reader because it will essentially be a marker that you’re halfway done with the article; which is a lot better than glancing at a 1,000 word post which looks (to the human eye) very long.
The “more” button looks like this:
Links (internal and external):
Linking within your blog is important for many reasons, this is probably the most important one. Let’s say that you are writing a blog post on the situation in Palestine and the point you want to make is that Israel should negotiate with Hamas because (comparatively) Hamas is a much more moderate force in the Middle East than say, the Mahdi Army in Iraq. But the point of your post is actually that Israel should negotiate with Hamas not on how Hamas can be considered “moderate” for an Islamic popular front. How do you not violate the guideline (not rule) of keeping to one idea per post?
For the sake of argument, let’s say you already had a post on the idea that Hamas is a moderate force in the Middle East due to their election policies and work with secular forces in Palestine. All you would need to do is link that previous post to the post you are working on now; this will keep the post a lot shorter than you could have previously as one of your key points in the post is already backed up in a previous post. If you haven’t made a post like that than you can see that you will make such a post at another point and time and then link it latter when you create that post.
Or, let’s say someone else already blogged about that and they said it better than you could, all you need to do then is to link that person within your blog, think of it as “blogger footnotes.” Footnotes tend to look bad on blogs but sometimes they are necessary, but, if you think about it, because of the uniqueness of the web you are footnoting by actually linking to someone (like I did in the first paragraph), it just looks a lot cooler and is more interactive.
A link from one weblog to another helps provide context around an argument or point, and it is essentially a “vote of attention” from one blogger to another. By linking to another site or blog, the weblog author is saying, “I find what you are saying important enough to link to it.” Linking also helps create the conversation of the Web, the critical mass of connected thought that is not available in static text.
Links in the world of weblogs are even more important since bloggers frequently link to and comment on other blogs, creating a sense of timeliness and back-and-forth one would have in a conversation…
(Another note, what I just did there is “quoting” it is important, think of it as indenting on a paper, when quoting highlight the text in question and then click on the little quote button on your WordPress tool bar).
Pics are also important as they create a nice visual for readers online to see, normally readers will be drawn to post (if they are browsing your website) if they see an interesting picture that is relevant to the title of the post. It is important to embed a link within a picture (which is easy to do on WordPress) if you got that picture from another website so when people click on that pic they will be brought to the website where you got it from.
Obviously, with titles, you’ll want to come up with something snappy but also something that will tell the reader what the post will be about (most of the time, but, not all of the time). So you’ll want to straddle the line between creative and simple blog post titles. Have fun with it.
Overtime, you will create categories for posts, these are good because if the reader wants to search subjects tackled on your blog than they can click on the categories they see; or, if they liked you post on Ansel Adams and they want to see more posts on photography they can click on your “photo” category.
An example of categories on one of my posts:
Now some people like to have lots of categories on their blog that are very specific and others want ones that are more general. So the categories in the above picture for someone else might read:
Photography, Middle East, Palestine, Resistance, Occupation, Israel, Hamas, War, Gaza Conflict 2009, etc.
Where as mine just has general categories.
When blogging on a group blog such as the Postcolonial Theology Network Blog it is important to use categories that have been previously used (I do this on a group blog I write for, Alas, a blog). This is good because it will eliminate “double categories.” Let’s say you wrote a post on racism, instead of filling out a new category to peg to the post such as “racism” there might be another category your post will fit under, such as “Racism.” If we keep creating new categories on the posts we write for we might have an unwieldy category column on our blog that has multiple categories for the same subjects. Before you fill in the category section on WordPress I suggest browsing throught the categories already in palce to see if your post will fit there, if it can’t, than by all means, create a new category.
Another point to note, Tags are for WordPress users surfing tags on the WordPress homepage, Categories are for the readers of your blog, you can pretty much run wild with Tags.
WordPress is different from other blogging platforms as it doesn’t allow straight embedding within it’s blog. So if you want to embedd video or music or whatever you will need to know the format which you can do this, here are some simple things to do (you can always check out their help page and WordPressTV for help as well.
A good blog has good variety. It should have a mixture of some professional posts, personal posts related to the theme of the blog, video, audio, some long and moderate length blog posts, and some micro-posts, links to other blog posts, links to news articles, and pictures. And most importantly, enjoy, have fun, and if you have an idea Blog it!
Also, I suggest carrying around a small notebook and pen as you will come up with ideas on the fly about a good blog post, you’ll want to write that shit down (I know I do!).