All entries for July 2011

July 18, 2011

To blog, or not to blog? That is the question…

A number of things, the launch of Google+ among them, have recently prompted me to think about blogging and how, why and where I blog, and more fundamentally about what a blog really is. Before I get to that, a little bit of history...

I started blogging back in 2004, with a blog hosted on the University of Warwick's in-house Warwick Blogs system. That was really an experiment to see what blogging was all about, and specifically to see if it was a useful mechanism for enhancing communication within my team at work. Once that experiment was over, I carried on, encouraged by a community of people that were using Warwick Blogs and actively reading and commenting on each other's blogs. My blog turned into a place where I thought out loud about whatever interested me. There was no theme, and no intended audience. I wrote the blog for me. Eventually, I discovered Twitter as an outlet for my random thoughts and I stopped blogging quite so much, and eventually stopped completely. As an attempt to kick-start my blogging I created a new blog and while I don't blog quite so much there as I used to on the other blog, I do seem to be just about keeping it going. So far. Now, though, Google+ has arrived and I like it a lot. The ability to write long posts, unlike on Twitter, means that I could easily do all my "thinking out loud" there and not need to blog at all. Or maybe I mean I don't need a separate blog and that Google+ could be my blog? But what is a blog...

I use Google Analytics on my blogs, and despite there being no significant content on my old blog since 2009 it still gets over 700 visits a month. People clearly are finding the content there useful. Or more likely Google Search is sending them there because it thinks they'll find it useful. And for me, that is what makes a blog different from an update stream like Twitter or Google+ - permanence. Updates on social networking sites tend to be short lived. That is, people read them within a few hours of them being posted but after that they disappear into history and are never seen again. Even the search on Twitter doesn't return stuff more than a few days old anymore. One of the most viewed posts on my old blog is one I posted in 2006!

This has convinced me that a blog as a permanent, searchable entity separate from Twitter/Google+/etc. is a useful thing and I'll carry on doing it. I'm not sure that my new self-hosted Wordpress blog will stick around. If Google manage to nicely integrate Google+ with Blogger, for example, I could be very tempted to move there. But I will continue blogging somewhere...

And if the distinguishing factor of a blog is its permanence and searchability, we surely need to consider some form of archiving of blogs? This ties in very nicely with the Blog Forever Project mentioned by Karen Stepyan elsewhere on this blog.

July 15, 2011

Thoughts of a reluctant blogger

I have never really been interested in writing a blog, blogging, or the blogosphere before, so when I signed up to the pilot workshop last month I was very apprehensive - was I going to get anything out of it or was it going to be a waste of time?

It was certainly not a waste of time. Amy and Jess gave a fun-packed interactive session which helped me understand the blogosphere and knock down preconceptions I had of bloggers.

I thought the interactiveness of the workshop made the session highly engaging and interesting - I was dreading being talked at about blogging for a few hours, which I knew would go in one ear and out the other.

Instead I found the various exercises made the workshop a lot of fun, I felt I was part of the workshop and got out a lot more than I put in.

July 13, 2011

Mark – I need to learn about Twitter as well!

I need to learn about Twitter as well!

Karen Stepanyan – Let's preserve these!

Writing about web page

Karen says

Leon Hidderley – Unitemps blog starts here!

Writing about web page

Leon says

Nathan Gamble – More types of blog than I thought

more types of blogs than i thought

Cath Fenn – Window into new bloggers starting out

Cath Fenn

Rachel – Define your purpose

Rachel - define your purpose

Joe Barr – Warwick Sport Needs to Start blogging

Writing about web page

Warwick Sport needs to start blogging

July 06, 2011

Why I Blog

Writing about web page

keyboard.jpgI began blogging in 2008, when I was working as a print journalist. I started out for several reasons: partly because I didn’t want to get left behind with the digital publishing revolution, partly because I wanted to indulge myself in a forum that wasn’t controlled by others, and partly because I was writing a novel set in the Georgian period, and I thought a blog might be a good place to meet other history enthusiasts.

My first blog (which still exists on Blogger, though perhaps not for long as Google has announced a re-brand of that platform) was a modest success. I chose to blog under a pseudonym (and a pretty outlandish one at that), and worked hard at producing quality content, at least once or twice a week. It worked well because I was visiting many historic houses and locations as part of my research, so that gave me lots of things to blog about.

I was really surprised at how quickly I became linked into a network of history-lovers - many of them Americans who were interested in historical re-enactment. It was enormous fun. When my partner and I planned a trip to the 18th-century opera house, Drottningholm, in Sweden, one of my Swedish readers sent me a list of all the must-see Georgian attractions. It rained a lot and I remember doing an update of the blog in Stockholm using the hotel’s rather rubbish IT facilities, and my Swedish reader and I shared some moans about the weather that day. I also met lots of ‘history’ people in real life, thanks to this blog (some of them even still refer to me as Mrs Woffington!)

After a while, my blog ran out of steam, and I began to see a shift towards social media platforms (I also got on Facebook, which ate into my blogging time). The nail in the coffin was that Blogger forced me into a redesign of my site which I didn’t like, and couldn’t change, so I shifted it over to WordPress. Having become freelance, I then turned my attention to a blog under my own name (Annette Rubery: Journalism, Blogging, Social Media), and I created another (self-hosted) site on WordPress which I turned into my professional ‘shop-front’, with a portfolio and my CV. This is now the main focus of my blogging activities. I write (at least once a week) on topics that interest me professionally – mainly the media and higher education – and I try to engage with other people’s blogs too, leaving comments on individual posts. I think that’s really important when you’re a blogger because it’s difficult to get people to interact.

There have been (and are still) many more blogs… I write regularly for a fantastic hyperlocal called Lichfield Live (set up by Ross Hawkes and Philip John) and I recently co-created a hyperlocal for the street on which I live using Posterous. This is a very good blogging platform for beginners because you can blog via a mobile phone or email. I thought that if blogging was as easy as taking a picture with my iPhone, adding some text and emailing it to the blog, then I might do it more often.

Let’s wait and see if that happens!

July 2011

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  • I have finally got round to starting my own blog. I have started off with a helpful guide to working… by Leon Hidderley on this entry
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