Monday, January 28, 2008

What is Your Blog About?

In the class, "Living and Working in a Virtual World" many of the assignments are turned in via blog entries. That means whoever signs up for the course must start a blog, (as a side note, anonymity is encouraged) and maintain it during the quarter. In some cases, students have continued blogging well after completing the quarter.

The reason that many give for NOT continuing onward with their blogs is the difficulty they report having in thinking of things to blog about. During the Living and Working class questions and comments are raised which form the basis for the posts, so no major effort is needed to originate ideas on their own.

But the students who continue their blogs almost always post more than what is assigned, and invariably their blog is about something more than the class. They have an area of interest or interests and they have ideas they want to express.

In order to help them jumpstart a blog with staying power, I ask, "What is your blog about?". If they say, "this class" prospects are less encouraging for them to continue on later. It isn't always apparent at first, and it may be after weeks of posts before you can answer the question.

It should be a review that is ongoing. "What is this blog about?".

TacomaMama finished a long journey of blog posting which focused on Good Days in Tacoma. Once her mission was complete, she had gathered such good content, good will and community that for her not to continue would have been a great loss.

So rather than quell the momentum, she has started to leverage all that work and content to create neighborhood guides.

Introducing Tacomamama Neighborhood Guides

Installment 1: Proctor

Next up: McKinley. Look for it some time this week. (I hope.)

I'll be taking it neighborhood by neighborhood, starting with the business districts. I'd love to hear from readers what they'd like to see included.


Note the call out to the readers to help guide the content. She has a built in base of readers and along with her own editorial hand, she is asking, "what should this blog be about?".

When you build up a readership or community, taking their pulse and asking for input on direction is an important piece of staying relevant to them. It is also an indication that true community exists behind what was once an individual effort.

The intent is also apparent at Exit133. With an active and vocal community of posters and contributors, the question is being put out there. "What would you like to see?" They are using SurveyMonkey as an anonymous surveying tool, and I hope that they not only get the usual suspects providing input, but the many who enjoy the site yet stay in the background.

It is early in the year. A good time to ask, "what is it all about?".

8 comments:

Erik said...

TacomaMama finished a long journey of blog posting which focused on Good Days in Tacoma. Once her mission was complete, she had gathered such good content, good will and community that for her not to continue would have been a great loss.

The successful blogs are the ones that have new content. Few are going to survive by journal writing. Also, they need a god platform and a way to get their content seen. Otherwise, their blog is going to wither away like 99 percent of them.

That's why Feed Tacoma works so well.

Also, Blogger doesn't seem to be working very well. Evevn the BIA blog on Blogger gets almost no postrs.

Jen said...

Feedtacoma is an amazing vehicle for visibility. I don't think my blog would have really gained any kind of readership without it. Citi

It's good to get some feedback on the neighborhood guides!

I have been sort of checking in with myself on the "what's it all about?" issue lately. It would be easy for it to become pretty much just a local food blog but I'm trying to keep the variety there. It's tough at this time of year.

One of the things I've found that really helps keep things going is to bring my camera with me everywhere I go. That way, when I have one of those "I should really blog about this" thoughts, I'll take a picture and it will remind me later.

I also pick up lots of menus, business cards, and brochures. When I'm feeling burnt out I'll go through my pockets and all the material is right there, ready to go.

Andrew Fry said...

Erik, I am a big fan of FeedTacoma. With more tools for customizing the look (templates Kevin?) I would definitely consider it over Blogger for use by the students in my class.

And though I completely agree that new content is an important aspect of keeping a blog relevant, I would not underestimate the power of archived information creating value and identity for a site.

On the "What is Your Blog About?" front, I think the Tacoma Urbanist is an excellent example of a blog with purpose and identity. Do you anticipate any difficulty in keeping up posts? You certainly will never run out of things to talk about when it comes to the city and it's destiny. Do you consider yourself a stand alone blog, or part of the FeedTacoma big picture or both?

Andrew Fry said...

Jen, I need to get a more portable easy to use camera. I don't do much by way of adding photos to my site, but when I do they end up being some of my favorite posts.

One of these times I want to blog about the great stuff you do with the mapping tools on TacomaMama.

kevinfreitas said...

I agree with Jen that having easy visual content from a digital camera you carry with you goes a long way to help someone keep blogging.

I know my personal blog is definitely focused on me and my seeing the world through my photos. There's definitely a Tacoma focus but I'm also directing some of that energy to my FeedTacoma blog.

Likewise, over at FeedTacoma I'm constantly asking for feedback via the forums. The 3-page (and growing) list of features to add to FT is largely due to user feedback (like blog templates, for example). For any local blog to be closed off to user feedback would be contradictory to the transparency and involvement we seek to promote among local government, businesses, and others.

Anonymous said...

So as myzip focuses on clearly delineated geographical boundaries, it sounds like TacomaMama will potentially utilize a looser definition of boundaries, still representing a more exacting view of community than that published through more traditional means such as community newsletter or newspaper could afford. Good luck in that adventure!

What is interesting to me is what the voice(s) in hyper-local community will sound like. Will it truly be the community speaking or only the "accepted and appropriate" voice(s)? Will the masses who don't speak be engaged in the process? Is it a blog that will be the voice, or should websites be considered as the vehicle?

Additionally, how will these expressions of community be supported both with content and on a financial basis? What is the business model that will allow these community voices to be heard and to succeed? If no one reads a blog, is it a journal? If only a small group of friends read each other blogs, is it just a fancy way of emailing or IM'ing?

Andrew Fry said...

Good questions my anonymous friend.

I think that even if a blog were not read by anyone, it would still have the value to that person as a journal. As to a small number of people reading, often I have heard from friends who contact me AFTER running across my blog. Plus my sisters read it and it keeps them appraised of some of my activities.

But your business model question is my favorite, and I am keeping an eye on several sites with interest to see if they can pull off an effective means to fund their ongoing operations. It is the broader topic sites with a large potential market that have seemed to be able to make ad space work.

At what point does your market size no longer provide the necessary readership to succeed as a sponsorship fueled endeavor.

Lynetta Gray said...

hi Prof.! Well amazingly enough I still blog sometimes and I don't do it for feedback or anything like that. I realized that its fun looking at what I've written 6 months ago! lol. And just writing something in general is fun too, but I do remember the feedtacoma from class...

Just stopping by!

~Lynetta