Friday, April 14, 2006

12 blog content tips

(1) Write to help, inform, amuse, entertain, enlighten, warn, educate, provoke, encourage, exemplify, challenge, inspire.

(2) Write about topics currently causing a blogosphere buzz, only if you have substantial thinking or relevant links to contribute.

(3) Write about your own personal, independent viewpoints, rather than always quoting others.

(4) When you quote another blog or other online source, credit the source: get permission if necessary, use [QUOTE] and [END QUOTE] or similar device, like blockquotes, to separate the quote from your own text.

Always give quoted author name and title, date of quoted text, title of publication quote from which the quote is taken, and a hypertext link, a deep link, directly to the article from which the quote is derived.

(5) When you quote an long excerpt, or an entire article, from someone else, the protocol is to at least offer your own analysis, interpretation, or commentary on that material. Otherwise, it will look like you just paste other people's content into your blog, because you're stupid or lazy.

(6) Vary your post content, in terms of mood, style, length, titles, text formatting, links, seriousness vs. playfulness, critique vs. praise, photos/art vs. plain text, and topic selection.

(7) Use sidebar for (relatively) permanent content you think every visitor should see, like links to your other sites, or a blogroll, feedroll (Digg, Lockergnome, etc.), or badges for causes you believe in. It's not hard for non-technical bloggers to change and enhance the content of the sidebar. Many tutorials exist, and I'll personally instruct those who ask me.

(8) Format for speed. Studies show that web users--hurriedly, impatiently, distractedly--skim and scan, searching for relevant items. Web analysts call this "information foraging".

To facilitate information foraging, i.e., user discovery of relevant material on your blog, try using:

* short, pithy posts (unless the message cannot be short without suffering insufficiency)

* bold/italics

* text color/size

* copy chunking (breaking long blocks of text into bite-sized units)

* brief paragraphs

* bulleted, asterisked, or numbered lists

* friendly, personal, consultative tone (rather than harsh, cold, or domineering).

(9) Display a real, fallible, imperfect, down to earth, sympathetic, human presence to your readers. Admit mistakes. Apologize for offenses. Explain your reasons for confrontation and combat. Defend yourself calmly. Ponder reader critiques and flames. Cross out sentences that are invalid, inaccurate, poorly stated, or too rash.

(10) Do the opposite of corporate brochureware, i.e., static web sites, where the tone is stiff, "we"-oriented, and full of generic claims (awesome, revolutionary, best), vague benefits, unexplained features, stock/generic photos, and insincere hyperbole (exaggeration).

(11) Right after you publish a post, be sure to test all the links, in case you typed a URL incorrectly.

(12) Before you post anything, ask:

* "Why am I publishing this to the web for all to see?"

* "Is this tone going to make me sound arrogant, mean-spirited, vengeful, mentally unbalanced, or amateur?"

* "Am I just jumping on a bandwagon to be popular?"

* "Am I just trying to stir up controversy, with no proposed solution or remedy to the problem?"

* "Does my writing represent a unique, or carefully researched, point of view?"

* "Do I link to all the sources or examples that are required to make my essay complete and accurate?"

* "How does this contribute to the overall impression I'm trying to make upon readers?"

* "Is this sufficiently inflammatory to provoke people to wake up and take proper action?"

* "Is there a softer, but more universally appealing and effective, way to state my position?"

* "Am I toned down due to fear, cowardice, or approval-addiction?"

* "If this was posted by some one else, would I still consider it interesting and valuable?"

* "Is this post in alignment with the purpose of my blog?"

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