Those who are about to blog...

If you are considering taking up blogging this year, and wondering what it might involve, I would be happy to offer you a few tips from my own experience. I have been blogging for just over 5 years and during that time have learnt a few things. Blogging can be a thoroughly absorbing activity, which ultimately will pay you back as much as you invest in it, and also some interest. It can also be a very creative pastime, enabling you to develop your ideas, and sound them out in public. I have already written extensively about the benefits of blogging for professionals in several previous posts including Seven reasons teachers should blog, so I won't elaborate here. What I will do though in the space I have on this post, is offer you some caveats, and a few words of advice...

Firstly, blogging can be time consuming. It's not quite the 'time sink' that Patricia Wallace (1999) warned about, but it can take up a lot of your time, especially if you are a bit of a perfectionist. You may also struggle at first to think up ideas for your blog. However, the more you involve yourself in your own sphere of professional practice, the more you will find to write about. Social media such as Twitter provide a lot of inspiration. Get networking and you'll have a lot to write about. Before long, if you persist with your writing and don't give up, you will have a growing archive of blog posts to look back on.

Secondly, you may not receive a lot of interest at first for your blogging. There are probably many other blogs already that represent your field (unless you are extremely specialised), so there is a lot of competition for people's attention. But don't let that put you off - join in. Some of your posts may go unread, and even if people do read them, you may not receive any comments. Persevere. The more you blog, you more likely you are to receive comments, especially if your content is useful, controversial or laced with humour. Some people blog simply to get their ideas down in some concrete form. This is valuable in itself, because sometimes you don't know what you are thinking until you externalise it in some tangible way.

Thirdly, if your site becomes popular, and you gain a large audience, you may begin to receive spam messages and comments on your blog. You can detect them easily, because they normally arrive as a bland message along the lines of 'I enjoy reading your blog because it is very interesting to me', often in bad English, and then accompanied by the tell-tale hyperlink. I learned very early on to moderate comments to my blog, and these kind of comments are deleted very quickly in the filtering stage. Moderating comments can be a little more time consuming than open comments, but it's worth the extra effort to filter out the dross and maintain some sort of quality control over your content.

Some people may approach you with ideas or contributions for a guest blog. Again, treat these offers with caution. A few are quite genuine, but many are opportunists who wish to gain some exposure on your site, but don't actually have a lot to offer. If you are interested, ask for a sample of their writing before you go any further. Often the question is, do these would-be bloggers not have a blog of their own? And if they do, why are they bothering you? I wrote about this problem in a post a year ago.

Finally, you will need to develop a thick skin. If your site becomes popular, you will present a target that is there to be shot at. Not everyone will agree with what you say, which is usually very healthy. Those who disagree with you will say so, and some will not be particularly kind in their comments. Some may even make quite personal comments, but this often reveals more about them than about the topic under discussion. Ultimately, all comments that engage with the topic you have blogged should be welcomed, because they lead to dialogue that makes people think. There are some though, who have an agenda of their own, whether it is self-promotion, or just trouble making. Occasionally you may receive a comment that is abusive. It is up to you to decide whether you allow such comments to appear. Some argue that 'feeding the trolls' is a bad idea, and simply delete such messages. Others welcome them and respond appropriately to them.

So if you are embarking on blogging, remember - it is a public space. What you write becomes a part of your digital identity. Some of your writing will be misunderstood, some will be much appreciated by those who read it. Sometimes it's a walk in the park, but occasionally it can be an arena in which a form of gladiatorial combat can take place. So speak softly, but carry a big stick.

Reference
Wallace, P. (1999) The Psychology of the Internet. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Image by Benjamin Cooper


Creative Commons Licence
Those who are about to blog... by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Interesting post. I've been blogging for ages too, and those spam comments were a nightmare. Since transferring to Wordpress, though, they have been minimal. I would echo everything you have said. Finding your niche might take a while - but it's there.....
Anonymous said…
A useful post, as ever. Do think you could usefully add a sixth point as you so gracefully pre-empt the question of how to handle advertisement and endorsement requests (sometimes disguised as comments) by the note in your bio/intro.
Frankie Kam said…
Thanks Steve for an insightful post chockful of advice.
Anonymous said…
As we have previously discussed, the lack of interaction (comments) can be initially a put off, however as you self-publish into the public arena, it seems to trigger your ideas and reflective thoughts into a more transformative sphere even without feedback. Perhaps that's an unconscious need to actually make change because the words have become durable...
I started blogging after hearing you and others talking about it at the Northern Grid conference, and as a new blogger I found your post interesting, helpful and reassuring! Thank you.
Susan Banister said…
Good advice. Though I still get a lot of spam on Wordpress. But as you said they are easy to spot by bad spelling or content.

I am a new blogger. I post for my own reference of thought and to expand comments on Twitter. However I intend to blog more seriously this year. So advice welcome :)
Karen said…
Thanks so much for a very realistic reflection of blogging. I have previously had a class blog - fabulous for reflecting on learning! I now plan to set up a personal blog and really appreciate your practical advice.
RW said…
I did it! I started a NY blog. I am an aide and I may be one of the only aides in Australia who blogs. Maybe not, but I can't imaging there would be many.

http://thepomoslso.wordpress.com/

I think if you blog solely to attract an audience, you risk becoming slightly insincere. That's just IMHO. I liked your previous post about using blogging as a journal to track performance and record thoughts and ideas.

That post did inspire me to blog, and with an open heart and mind.

So thank you.
Rebecca.
Anonymous said…
Very interesting. I h ave been blogging for a couple months now and find that I am going through a lot of what you say. Developing a thick skin is difficult!
Anna Kapnoullas said…
Great post. I've just started (kapnoullas.blogspot) and have been amazed at how much more reflective I am becoming. Also helps to be part of a PLN on twitter.
Thanks,
Anna
ddpark said…
I like what I read but I have never blogged before. It seems very time consuming but I think that is because I am not familiar with it. Once I am I am sure that I will be an old pro at.

Darrell
ddpark said…
I am not familiar with blogging. I did like the information that you gave concerning it. I do hope to be much better at the end of this semester.

Darrell

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