08 September 2008

Blogging -- Some Modest Proposals

The final fringe that I went to at the Green Party conference this weekend was one on green blogging. It was organised by the Rt Hon Rt Rev Jim Jepps (The Daily Maybe), and Sunny Hundal (Liberal Conspiracy, Pickled Politics) was a guest speaker.

The discussion was interesting, but it focused a bit much on the pitfalls (people going grrrr, to the point of legal action, about things you blog about).

As a start, some tips on what makes/creates a good blog:

- Generate original content -- Content is the only reason people will keep coming back to your blog. Talk about community meetings you attended that the media didn't cover ... or covered the wrong way. Break news. Do email interviews. Be the first to post up a video from Christian Aid or FoE.

- Write a post that could be the definitive one on the subject in the country, e.g. something on the "Right To Rent" motion at this weekend's conference, and then turn it into how that could be applied at the local level, compare it to "Right To Buy", look at why people rent most of their lives on the continent, etc. I've found that two of the posts in my archive that receive the most attention are on sex workers in Coventry and David Cameron and the EU Social Chapter.

- "Voice" in your writing -- Use active words. Use "plain english" and short-punchy sentences. People absorb information in bite-size pieces. A lack of specialist "in the know" terminology is going to ensure a wider readership for your blog. Read writers that you like, and ask why their prose works.

- Intimacy -- I did three years of community radio news in university, and the trick (especially for someone like me who had a severe stutter as late as age 18) was to speak to one person when in front of the microphone. Write as if you're writing for one person out there reading it on their screen.

- Find a balance between being spontaneous and being your own editor -- Write 300 words ... walk away from the computer and have a sandwich ... come back, edit it ruthlessly down to 200 words. Post it. Make each post exactly what you want to say. This is also the key to good letter-writing to newspapers.

- Mix it up -- Write short posts. Write long posts. Learn how to use audio and to embed video.

- Tag your posts -- I didn't tag my posts for at least the first year. I just blogged and blogged, and then when it came time to organise 500 posts into a few tags, they had organically emerged (i.e. a fair amount of posts on mental health led to "health" ... a number of posts on prisons led to "crime"). I have 20 tags, and I think even that is too much. The tags will show people what the focus of your blog, over the past year, has been about. If you have 200 tags, what focus is there?

If people want to add other suggestions through comments, feel free!


Jim Jay said...

Nice one Scott - I'll try and think of something to add - but that's a useful addition to the discussion

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