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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Blog

Ingrid O'Sullivan has a new blog and is the first person to take me up on my post 100 Conversation Topics which asks people to start a conversation with me and get aggregated into 100 conversations. Good for you Ingrid!

Sidenote: I feel a little behind having just seen that the company that Ingrid works for Third Force actually acquired MindLeaders back in June 2007 and looks to be a fairly serious player. Normally, I'm pretty familiar with companies in the space, but I was not familiar with them. So, it was good for me to at least get them on my radar.

Ingrid's post tells a bit of a story that is likely familiar to other authors of a relatively new blog. Ingrid tells us that among her hardest challenges is deciding what to write in the blog ...
I’m pretty new to blogging [...] I really want this blog to grow, to be of interest to you our readers and provide relevant information to you. And boy is that hard… at least twice a week I am faced with the task of getting something ready to post. I question what I write - how personal should it be, if it’s too technical will it bore you, is it original and new, am I at all amusing or funny – this list goes on. And I think half the problem is because this is such a new blog, we are still discovering who you the readers are, and looking for feedback on what you want. I’m hoping as I gain more experience, have more “conversations” and learn from the likes of Tony, this will no longer be my hardest ongoing task - but for now dear readers please read with patience.
I think that it's likely the case with a new blog that you go from posting your first couple of posts that maybe come out quite easily to finding yourself wondering what to write about later. Likely there are some great posts out there that chronical the lifecycle of new blogs as they go through this early growing challenge. Take a look at what Janet Clarey had to say after her first 100 days - Debriefing myself…a noob’s experience after 100-ish days of blogging. I'm sure there are other good examples out there of this lifecycle - pointers?

Some quick thoughts as I read the post on her new blog ...
  1. You are right that trying to figure out the audience is helpful for any new blog. What kinds of questions do they have? Hopefully my list of topics helps. At least those are some of my questions and likely some questions that other people have as well.
  2. I think it's easier to write posts when you are writing almost as much for your own learning as you are for "the audience." I personally don't ever even think of "audience" or "readers" - many who I don't know. Instead, I think about people I do know who I know read this and somewhat have a conversation with them. But the bottom line, if you are interested in something, it will be interesting to the audience.
  3. Your past posts are definitely interesting. I personally would get more if you go a bit deeper on your topics. What are the challenges with being funny? personal? etc? What was a specific example of where you were challenged to find a topic? Is this something that you think other bloggers face (they do)? Point me to some examples of that? These would have been a bit more interesting conversation for me and likely other bloggers and likely your readers as well. A blog offers the opportunity to go deep and narrow. Oh, and, I will skip it (as will other readers) if it's not relevant. But I think the bigger risk is never going deep enough.
  4. Don't get too caught up in Measuring Blog Success. Your goal should be to have interesting conversations. Results will follow.
  5. Have you participated in a Learning Circuit's Big Question? This is a great way to get exposure to the blogging community and grow your audience.
  6. As you are writing a corporate blog, you have to walk a fine line. It's far more difficult than writing a personal blog outside the confines of a corporation. I would recommend staying away from promoting Third Force explicitly in your posts. You'll notice what I deleted above when I cut and paste. The extra stuff was not needed and a bit too promotional. You'll get the message across without that kind of stuff, but you will turn off some people with it. So, it's far safer to avoid it.
  7. Make sure you periodically engage other bloggers with them around their posts. Oh you just did. Well done. :)
  8. Take a look at Blog Discussion for some ideas on other ways to spark discussion.
As I wrote this, I realized that if we were at a cocktail party (a bit less public and with drinks) this probably would have come out much better. As it stands, it sounds far more critical than it should. I'm trying to be helpful and I actually think you are doing good stuff and it's a good idea for you (and your company) to have you blogging. So, I hope this is okay. Ingrid's not asking for a critique. She's just wanting to converse about it.

Ack, someone help me here. First, I Push People to Blog and then I critique them. That's not good. What should I have said to the writer of a new blog that would have been much more encouraging?

And anything else that would help Ingrid? I'm sure there are some other thoughts from other bloggers out there.


jadekaz said...

Having started and abandoned by blog after 3 postings, please take my advice with a grain of salt :)

What I think a beginner blogger should focus on is just the act of putting thoughts into words. To get used to writing, to get used to experiencing something and thinking "this should go in the blog." That sort of follows along with your idea, Tony, about making the blog for yourself.

Refining the experience and the usability of the blog could come later. So could learning the ins and outs of the tool. Or trying to gain an audience.

Sarah Stewart said...

The other aspect of blogging that is so important, as far as I am concerned, is getting out to other blogs and connecting with people by leaving comments. Apart from developing connections, you'll also get ideas about what/how to write.

Tony Karrer said...

@jadekaz - Good point. It's a bit like Jay Cross' analogy of having a camera. You have to think about walking around with your blog sitting there ready to take a picture of what you find. You experience the world in a different way when you do it.

@Sarah - I'm somewhat hit and miss on comments. I really try to, but I find that I often want to say more than fits in a comment - so I end up blogging it. The point is the same - engage in the broader conversation.

I would point out that Ingrid is doing that.

But I wonder if she has a blog search set up to find anyone who links to her? And/or has a way to track comments on other blogs to stay up with the conversation? These are core initial pieces of what it really means to become a blogger in most cases.

Whoops, I should have put all this in my post.

Sarah Stewart said...

@Tony, yes but you can't everything about blogging in one post. I always recommend working through the two 31 day challenges- 'building a blog' & 'comment'.

V Yonkers said...

I wrote the following in response to the research Karyn Romeis was doing on the use of Web 2.0 tools:

I don't think that I have really come into being a "blogger" as much as a reader of blogs. I do blog as a way to keep track of some of my thoughts. However, I don't think that blogging has really accomplished what I had expected of it: creating a space to dialog about ideas. I feel that I can accomplish that better as a commenter of others blogs. For whatever reason, I have had few people actually comment on my blogs (I received the first comment on my blog after a year of blogging, and most recently have had two more people commenting, one regularly!).

I actually found it humorous that there is the assumption that only new bloggers get "blogging block". I think there are times when I have a surplus of ideas and other times the ideas come out in trickles. What I have learned to do is to write when I have the ideas, but to perhaps save them as drafts for those dry times (this is a new thing I am trying actually).

I think also that it is useful to have a regular "feature" to challenge the readers, like the big question of the month or the comment challenge or the Tuesday challenge (I can't remember if it is Tuesday or Wednesday).

Finally, it is important to have statistics on the readers because often they do not post comments. I use both google analytics and stat counter because they give me similar data but different formats. I am surprised that the most popular posts have no comments on them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony and everyone else who responded with comments. Your feedback has been far more comprehensive than I could have expected, as you say a "critique" perhaps! It's all good - in my view all feedback is positive even if it may sound negative, it's recognising where improvements can made and producing the best one can, so thanks.

Some examples of where I struggle or questioned what I was writing - well, is anyone really interested in reading about my troubles finding a payphone in the US?, are the topcis too random - we target very broad industry sectors and ensuring that posts are interesting to all is pretty much impossible so I need to decide how focused I should be on one or another or any?, this is as you pointed out a corporate blog, and I am very aware of not promoting ourselves as is advised, however convincing colleagues that a blog is not a sales tool can sometimes be difficult! They are coming around though.

So thanks for all the advice it's great and much appreciated... and when I'm attending all those cocktail parties over Christmas I'll see what other feedback I can garner, which I'm sure after a glass or two of bubbly will be as honest as yours.

Oh and watch out for my Big Question for December post....

Damon Regan said...

Tony, your critiques are valuable. Just consider yourself a great teacher.

Finding the balance between writing and reading/commenting is tough. There is always the fear of being too social or not social enough. Being a student seems to pose its own challenges here. When bloggers deviate from the path of my formal learning it's easy to say "well, my formal learning is obviously irrelevant." However, I value history and a solid foundation, which I'm not sure blogs generally provide.

If we ever meet at a conference, I'm game for critiques and cocktails.

Sreya Dutta said...

Tony, thanks for directing me to this post. I think its a valuable read to new bloggers. You almost pulled out the questions right outta my head and it felt good to know that this is mostly the way new bloggers feel.

I will continue to keep posting and hoping that you do critique my posts. Thanks,