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technology

So you want to start blogging…

So you want to start blogging? You’re in luck. There’s never been a better time to blog than right now. The costs are low. The tools are easy to use. And the rewards can be great. Sit back and relax as I walk you through the basics of blogging.

But first, what is a blog? According to Google, a blog is “A web site on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis.” Blogs were originally created as a mechanism for people to publish their thoughts. Blogs were seen as a fringe tool used by average Joe’s to share their opinions online. But over time, blogs have become dominant websites on the internet.

Alexa provides a great list of the top sites on the internet. You’ll see that many of them are sites you use every day: Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. No blogs here. These are transactional sites that serve multiple purposes.

But, when you look at some of the top media sites in the world, you’ll notice an interesting trend. Pingdom, an internet monitoring company, has provided an interesting snapshot: WordPress completely dominates top 100 blogs. This report mentions a bunch of sites that most of us instantly recognize: The Huffington Post, mashable, various Wired Magazine, New York Times & CNN blogs, etc. The key thing to understand here is that these are HUGE sites with TONS of traffic. And what do they all have in common? The publishers communicate with readers via stories (called blog posts). Readers interact with the content by reading, commenting and sharing that content with their friends.

All of this reading and writing and sharing generates tremendous website traffic, which translates into premium content sales (ebooks, subscriber only access) and ad revenue (sponsorships, display and text ads wrapped around the stories).

What does this have to do with you and blogging?

A lot – actually. These tools that are used by large multi-national, multi-million dollar organizations are available to each of us. And most of the same features are available for free. And the remaining features are available at a nominal cost. So, with a little bit of talent and a whole bunch of effort (don’t fool yourself, writing well is tough), each one of us can build an audience and reach our blogging goals.

Stick around… over the next few posts:

  1. I’ll give you a tour of the “tools of the trade“;
  2. I’ll teach you how to “build your Tribe”;
  3. I’ll show you various methods of monetizing your blog; and
  4. I’ll show you how to measure the success of your blog;

Talk soon!

Todd

Categories
technology

Awesome web developer cheat sheets

I’m a big fan of this post by carsonified: 17 Awesome Web Developer Cheat Sheets

There’s nothing like a simple, one page cheat sheet reference for the stuff that you work with the most. All of the necessary functions at a glance. What more could you need?

In fact, this post by carsonified has motivated me so much, that I’m adopting this strategy at my day job. I manage an operations team and over the years, I’ve compiled a fairly robust set of documents that explains our processes. I’m in the middle of updating them. But, instead of editing/updating the docs as they currently exist, I’m scrapping the whole thing and replacing them with a small collection of one (or two, at most) page cheat sheets. If I can’t fit all of the important stuff on a double sided sheet of paper, then there’s too much to know, and the items on the cheat sheets will never be handled properly anyways.

We’ll see how it works out. I suspect it’ll lead to better understanding and use of established processes and tools.

Your turn to share: What topics/tasks would you like to see on a cheat sheet?

Categories
technology

Types of Blog Posts Day 5 of 5: Interaction type posts

In this 5 part series, we’re examining 5 Different Types of Blog Posts.

Post 5 of 5 (red)Question: What’s one of the best ways to build rapport with your audience?

Answer: To engage your audience in a dialogue. And the primary way of doing this is asking or answering questions. I’ve used this method a few times and it works wonders. Here’s why:

  • When readers ask questions, they have a vested interest in watching for a response.
  • When readers ask questions, you know that they are reading your content and that they want to engage in conversation with you.
  • When you answer reader questions, you are providing content that is in demand.
  • When you answer reader questions, you are telling your readers that you care about them.

All of this helps to build a sense of community around your blog. Community is so important. Few people last long simply sitting and listening to a lecture. The best teachers I’ve ever had have invited discussion, whether in the form of questions, comments or personal observations. It is this give and take between the participants that leads to growth in your audience.

Question-type posts are just that: You ask your readers to submit questions that they would like you to address in future posts. This is a great way to build a posting schedule for the near future if you’re unsure about what to write about. And, it’s also a great way to keep your readers coming back on a regular basis.

Answer-type posts are the follow up to the question-type posts (pretty obvious stuff). These are especially good when you provide links to the people that posed the questions. Everybody likes to see their names mentioned in print. Mentioning them at the beginning of this type of post immediately bumps your blog to the top of their favourites list for a while! Keep that in mind when trying to build community with your readers.

And, whether you use all of the questions or not in your blog posts, be sure to respond to every suggestion in some way. Remember, you’re building relationships with your visitors. Write them back. Thank them for their submissions. If you’re going to use their questions, great. Give them some sort of idea when you’ll be addressing their questions. And if you don’t use their questions, it’s probably a good idea to let them know why. After all, they did take the time to write to you.

So… to properly wrap up this post, I guess I should ask a question. Here goes:

What would you like to see me talk about in a future post or series of posts here at Wirepaper.com?

Categories
technology

Types of Blog Posts Day 4 of 5: Blog Series

In this 5 part series, we’re examining 5 Different Types of Blog Posts.

Post 4 of 5 (red)There are times when you have an ambitious message to get out to your audience. You want to cover a bunch of stuff and you’re not sure how best to structure it. A good rule of thumb is to keep blog posts short and easy to read. So, that rules out generating complex posts. So, why not break up a complex post into multiple posts?

Blog series are just that – a series of blog posts that has a unifying theme. Take this current blog series as an example. I wanted to convey my tips pertaining to different types of blog posts. I didn’t want to just provide a very basic list and leaving it at that. And I also didn’t want to provide a HUGE blog post containing all of this info. So, I broke it up into sections.

Here are the steps that I took to build this series:

  1. I made a high-level list of items that I wanted to present. In this case, I was able to brainstorm 7 key types of blog posts.
  2. I organized those items into a structured list. I managed to categorize the 7 items into a 5 item list.
  3. I expanded upon each item in the structured list. This became the text of each blog entry.
  4. I settled on a unifying theme to tie it all together. This was the “5 Days of Blog Posts” title that I gave to this series.
  5. I generated a simple, eye-pleasing badge (the Day X of 5 badge) to dress up the posts a little and to provide a bit of a legend to the post in relation to the rest of the series.
  6. I built the blog posts in WordPress and scheduled them for publication in advance. I wrote these posts a week in advance. this allowed me to be a week ahead of my post schedule and it also alleviated the stress of needing to produce a blog post on short notice.

One of my favourite things about blog series’ is that they allow me to be more verbose. In each blog post, I do my best to be concise and to the point. The ability to elaborate on each point means that I explain things with more detail, which adds value for the reader.

And, a blog series gives the reader a reason to come back each day. As long as the content is strong, it should keep your readers coming back throughout the series to see what’s going to happen next.

That’s it for today. Until tomorrow, tag!

Todd

Categories
technology

Types of Blog Posts Day 3 of 5: Link Posts

In this 5 part series, we’re examining 5 Different Types of Blog Posts.

Post 3 of 5 (red)
Today, we’re going to look at link-type posts. These are posts where the primary focus is on an external website or websites. There are days when I come across a wide variety of news items, product reviews or blog posts and I have a strong desire to share all of them with my readers. But unfortunately, I don’t have enough hours in the day to write lengthy posts on each item. Nor should I have to, as there’s no point in rehashing existing content. We want to write fresh, new, original content. In cases like this, link posts come in handy.

In link posts, the goal is to quickly introduce the links and then get out of the way and allow the reader to enjoy the content. But remember these tips:

  • Your readers trust you Your readers visit your site to read content that you are consistent in delivering. Keep your links relevant as well. No point in sending your readers off to view something on gardening if they’re coming to your site that specializes in Transformers Collectibles.
  • Link to quality content Where you link to reflects back on you. If you directed me to a poor-quality site, I might second guess clicking on one of your recommended links next time.
  • Be brief, but informative Provide a strong introduction to the link. This builds the reader’s expectations and it helps to give them some context when visiting the link.
  • Shake and Bake Your Link Intros For some variety, try Speedlinking from time to time. This is the act of providing a simple list of links from time to time with little introduction other than a topic or theme. This is a quick and easy way of sharing a bunch of sites with very little prep work.

Some would say that link posts are an easy day’s work in the blogosphere. But I beg to differ. Link posts require vetting content and deciding whether or not to share it with your audience. This is an important task, as the content that you link to reflects on your site brand. Sometimes, this can get you out of a bind if you’re feeling writer’s block, but that doesn’t lessen the quality of the post at all.

And, to give you an example of what a link post might look like, here’s a list of my own.

Today’s list topic: 5 links that I found useful this morning:

  1. Blog Writing With True Passion – I like the idea of writing your blog, then getting articles published from it to make extra income. Some other interesting tips here as well.
  2. Google Reader – I’ve tried out a few RSS readers and Google is definitely my favourite for reading my favourite blogs and other RSS content.
  3. The Secret to Lightning-Fast Feed Reading – Some great tips on using your favourite feed reader. Excellent, concise and quite valuable in terms of time saved and efficiencies realized.
  4. Analyze Your Blog’s Competition – Not only will this tell you who else your readers might be reading, but it’ll also give you some ideas about how you could improve your own site.
  5. Todd’s Search for Meaning – A personal link to give you a bit of insight into who I am.

Anywho… enough rambling for one day.

Talk soon!

Todd