Thursday, September 3, 2009

I've got my blog set what?

Most of you have started to design the structure of your blogs. You may have added a few bells and whistles, but now it is time to add some content to your blog. Perhaps you are starting to feel stuck. What does one write about in a blog?
Think of this blog as a way of expressing your opinions on various subjects. You do not need to stick with a particular topic or theme this semester, you are free to write about any topic that could be deemed as classroom appropriate.
If you have not already posted introductory information about yourself, you may want to create a blog post which addresses your interests and hobbies. Consider creating a post which helps your classmates to get to know you.

Occasionally I will post links to places that will be of use to you as you start blogging. Perhaps the following links will help you as you begin composing your posts:

Mississippi River Boat

I grew up as a lover of reading books. I especially loved books that combined adventure and humor. One of my favorites was Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". As an East Coast girl who had never seen the Mississippi, I romanticized the river and Huck and Jim's journey down it.
Whenever I see the Julia Belle Swain, I can't help but be transported to those adventures that I read as a child. I also love to ride on the Julie Belle. It's a slow ride, and that peaceful and plodding pace allows me to really see the beauty of the river and the wildlife that live on it. If you have not yet taken a cruise on the Julia Belle, I would highly recommend it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A New Semester Begins

When I was a child, I loved back to school shopping. New pencils that had never been sharpened, notebooks without a mark in them. Perhaps it was the excitement of learning new things, the uncertainty of a learning from a new teacher, maybe it was that "clean slate" feeling that a new school year brought. Whatever the reason, I loved to get ready for the school year. I still have that exitement when autumn comes around. Maybe that is why I became a teacher, to be able to continue to feel the thrill of the new year, every year.

We've just finished our first week back to school and I've met all of you; I am looking forward to getting to know, as well as teaching and learning from all of you. Let the excitement begin!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Boys of Summer are Back!

Those of you who support one of the other baseball teams enjoyed opening day yesterday. Due to a rainout at Fenway yesterday, opening day is today for those of us who support the one true baseball team. I look forward to catching some of my favorite players ruling the diamond and taunting my brother in-law who supports the Yankees.
I've been lurking in the background, enjoying your blogs. I'm amazed at the diversity of topics and ideas that you are writing about. We certainly have some very interesting (and entertaining) individuals in class. That being said, some of you have expressed frustration with how difficult it can be to come up with topics about which to blog. Keeping that in mind, I want to share a few links with you: You may very well wish I had found this link earlier in the semester, I know that I do!

10 Tips on Writing the Living Web is an excellent list of ten aspects to keep in mind when writing a blog.

Top 10 Tips for New Bloggers From Original Blogger Jorn Barger is a great list of aspects or "gadgets" to consider about adding to your blog.

Writing a Blog - What to Blog About or Not To Blog About I'm guessing the title conveys the content.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blogger's Block? Try one of these ideas

Many of you have been struggling with topics for your weekly blogs. Writer's block is something all writer's face, whether the writer is composing an essay for class, a short story, song lyrics, or a weekly blog assigned by their writing teacher. I understand the struggle that many of you have been dealing with and have found the following bit of information in an attempt to help you.

The following post comes from the blog: written by Darren Rowse.

20 Types of Blog Posts
• Instructional - Instructional posts tell people how to do something. I find that my Tips posts are generally the ones that are among my most popular both in the short term (ie loyal readers love them and will link up to them) but also in the longer term (ie one of the reasons people search the web is to find out how to do things and if you can rank highly with your tips post you can have traffic over a length of time).

• Informational - This is one of the more common blog post types where you simply give information on a topic. It could be a definition post or a longer explanation of some aspect of the niche that you’re writing on. This is the crux of successful sites like wikipedia

• Reviews - Another highly searched for term on the web is ‘review’ - I know every time I’m considering buying a new product that I head to Google and search for a review on it first. Reviews come in all shapes and sizes and on virtually every product or service you can think of. Give your fair and insightful opinion and ask readers for their opinion - reviews can be highly powerful posts that have a great longevity.

• Lists - One of the easiest ways to write a post is to make a list. Posts with content like ‘The Top Ten ways to….’, ‘7 Reasons why….’ ‘ 5 Favourite ….’, ‘53 mistakes that bloggers make when….’ are not only easy to write but are usually very popular with readers and with getting links from other bloggers. Read my post - 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog for more on lists. One last tip on lists - if you start with a brief list (each point as a phrase or sentence) and then develop each one into a paragraph or two you might just end up with a series of posts that lasts you a few days. That’s how I started the Bloggers Block series.

• Interviews - Sometimes when you’ve run out of insightful things to say it might be a good idea to let someone else do the talking in an interview (or a guest post). This is a great way to not only give your readers a relevant expert’s opinion but to perhaps even learn something about the topic you’re writing yourself. One tip if you’re approaching people for an interview on your blog - don’t overwhelm them with questions. One of two good questions are more likely to get you a response than a long list of poorly thought through ones.

• Case Studies - Another popular type of post here at ProBlogger have been those where I’ve taken another blog and profiled them and how they use their site to earn money from their blogging (eg - one I did on Buzzmachine - the blog of Jeff Jarvis). Sometimes these are more like a review post but on occasion I’ve also added some instructional content to them and made some suggestions on how I’d improve them. Case studies don’t have to be on other websites of course - there are many opportunities to do case studies in different niches.

• Profiles - Profile posts are similar to case studies but focus in on a particular person. Pick an interesting personality in your niche and do a little research on them to present to your readers. Point out how they’ve reached the position they are in and write about the characteristics that they have that others in your niche might like to develop to be successful.

• Link Posts - The good old ‘link post’ is a favourite of many bloggers and is simply a matter of finding a quality post on another site or blog and linking up to it either with an explanation of why you’re linking up, a comment on your take on the topic and/or a quote from the post. Of course adding your own comments makes these posts more original and useful to your readers. The more original content the better but don’t be afraid to bounce off others in this way.

• ‘Problem’ Posts - I can’t remember where I picked this statistic up but another term that is often searched for in Google in conjunction with product names is the word ‘problems’. This is similar to a review post (above) but focusses more upon the negatives of a product or service. Don’t write these pieces just for the sake of them - but if you find a genuine problem with something problem posts can work for you.

• Contrasting two options - Life is full of decisions between two or more options. Write a post contrasting two products, services or approaches that outlines the positives and negatives of each choice. In a sense these are review posts but are a little wider in focus. I find that these posts do very well on some of my product blogs where people actually search for ‘X Product comparison to Y Product’ quite a bit.

• Rant - get passionate, stir yourself up, say what’s on your mind and tell it like it is. Rants are great for starting discussion and causing a little controversy - they can also be quite fun if you do it in the right spirit. Just be aware that they can also be the beginnings of a flaming comment thread and often it’s in the heat of the moment when we say things that we later regret and that can impact our reputation the most.

• Inspirational - On the flip side to the angry rant (and not all rants have to be angry) are inspirational and motivational pieces. Tell a story of success or paint a picture of ‘what could be’. People like to hear good news stories in their niche as it motivates them to persist with what they are doing. Find examples of success in your own experience or that of others and spread the word.

• Research - In the early days I wrote quite a few research oriented posts - looking at different aspects of blogging - often doing mind numbing counting jobs. I remember once surfing through 500 blogs over a few days to look at a number of different features. Research posts can take a lot of time but they can also be well worth it if you come up with interesting conclusions that inspire people to link up to you.

• Collation Posts - These are a strange combination of research and link posts. In them you pick a topic that you think your readers will find helpful and then research what others have said about it. Once you’ve found their opinion you bring together everyone’s ideas (often with short quotes) and tie them together with a few of your own comments to draw out the common themes that you see.

• Prediction and Review Posts - We see a lot of these at the end and start of the year where people do their ‘year in review’ posts and look at the year ahead and predict what developments might happen in their niche in the coming months.

• Critique Posts - ‘Attack posts’ have always been a part of blogging (I’ve done a few in my time) but these days I tend to prefer to critique rather than attack. Perhaps it’s a fine line but unless I get really worked up I generally like to find positives in what others do and to suggest some constructive alternatives to the things that I don’t like about what they do. I don’t really see the point in attacking others for the sake of it, but as I’ve said before this more a reflection of my own personality than much else I suspect and some people make a name for themselves very well by attacking others.

• Debate - I used to love a good debate in high school - there was something about preparing a case either for or against something that I quite enjoyed. Debates do well on blogs and can either in an organised fashion between two people, between a blogger and ‘all comers’ or even between a blogger and… themselves (try it - argue both for and against a topic in one post - you can end up with a pretty balanced post).

• Hypothetical Posts - I haven’t done one of these for a while but a ‘what if’ or hypothetical post can be quite fun. Pick a something that ‘could’ happen down the track in your industry and begin to unpack what the implications of it would be. ‘What if….Google and Yahoo merged?’ ‘What if …’

• Satirical - One of the reasons I got into blogging was that I stumbled across a couple of bloggers who were writing in a satirical form and taking pot shots at politicians (I can’t seem to find the blog to link to). Well written satire or parody can be incredibly powerful and is brilliant for generating links for your blog.

• Memes and Projects - write a post that somehow involves your readers and gets them to replicate it in someway. Start a poll, an award, ask your readers to submit a post/link or run a survey or quiz. Read more on memes.

As I wrote above - this is not an exhaustive list but rather just some of the types of posts that you might like to throw into your blog’s mix. Not every one will be suitable for all blogs or bloggers but using more than one format can definitely add a little spice an color to a blog. Lastly another technique is to mix two or more of the above formats together - there are no rules so have a bit of fun with it and share what you do in comments below.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Mind Your Manners

Lately I've been thinking about etiquette. Perhaps it is because as a mother, I am constantly explaining to my daughter what kinds of things are proper or not proper to do in public. I guess it is the fact that manners are so constantly in my frame of reference that I happen to notice how others use them when I am out in public.

And notice the public I do. In fact, I've come to the believe that for a majority of the general public, manners are becoming obsolete.

We've all seen the individuals who believe that public grooming is acceptable. Usually they are in the privacy of their cars or cubicles. Perhaps it is the fact that they are in a confined area that leads them to believe that they are can conduct private actions, while in public.

Everyone has been witness to the kind of person who shaves or put on makeup or shaves while driving. All issues of safety aside, I don't want to watch some guy shaving as I am driving down the highway. (Not to mention the fact that I can't help but think that a jerk of the car could slit his jugular vein). But for me, the icing on the cake was the other night when I was out to eat with my family. As I was enjoying my premeal beverage, I heard a distinct sound. A clip, clip, clip..... Could it be what I thought it was? Certainly no one could be so rude as to clip their nails in a public restaurant?! Of course they could! When I turned around, I saw a middle-aged yuppie clipping his nails into his empty dinner plate.

I immediately felt my stomach do a turn and I wanted to cover my drink to keep it safe from stray finger nails. Has this become socially acceptable now? Is it just me or is this not absolutely disgusting? Who want's to get to the bottom of their soup bowl and find some guys fingernail? I mean, Really! Of all the disgusting public acts of grooming that I've seen lately, I have to rank this one at the top of the list.