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Communicating Online: Blogs

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Share ideas, opinions and links using Blogs – and get quick feedback.

A blog, or weblog, is a web site, usually maintained by an individual or small team with regular entries including commentary, descriptions of events, links to other sites, where readers can comment directly on the entries posted.

Standard blog features include easy posting, archives of previous posts, and a standalone Web page for each post to the blog with a unique URL. Most blog providers generate RSS feeds or email notifications so that when the blog is updated, interested readers are alerted.

Blogs often attract a large and dedicated readership. They're great for knowledge sharing, reflection, and debate.  Communities often spring up around blogs, especially when discussing specialist subjects.

Why and when to use a Blog

Use a blog to share ideas, news, experiences, problems you're having (with a project or task for example).

With the web evolving into an increasingly social environment, blogs are especially useful to academia as a means of sharing ideas both with open and closed groups whilst at the same time eliciting feedback quickly and efficiently.

Blogs are not well-suited to collaboration, so if you would like people to contribute beyond just using the comment option, consider using a Wiki.

Remember! With blogs and wikis, we're speaking directly to the community and to the world. 

... Be sensible – what you say may be available forever! Even if you're in a (small) community site, don't post anything you wouldn't want anyone else to read – think of it as a public space. And think of your own - and your organisation's - reputation.

The Art of Blogging

It’s easy to set up a blog, but you're more likely to set up and maintain a successful and well-used blog if you consider the following questions before you even begin...

Why? 

Why are you setting up the blog? What are you trying to achieve? 

For example,

  • encouraging debate and engagement
  • an outlet for your opinions
  • disseminating information

Make sure you're adding value for the reader. They may not read every post, but by ensuring you're sharing useful information, advice, links etc you're more likely to attract the reader to return

Who?

Who are you aiming this at and how are you going to make them aware of it? Is this a personal blog in your own voice or are you representing a team / division etc?

This will inform your content and your language and tone. For example, if you're writing as yourself you can be freer than if you're representing your School, team or organisation.

Ensure RSS feeds are enabled and it's clear how people can subscribe to them

If appropriate, ensure your blog will show up in blog search engines such as Google Blog Search

What? 

What's your content: what’s the topic of your blog?

  • Read around the subject – be informed. Write about what you know: this is more likely to be engaging and interesting
  • You may like to post your own ‘editorial policy’ – stating clearly the aims and topics of your blog
  • Post useful links
  • Decide on your style and voice - this relates to your audience and who you're representing
  • Have an opinion in your blog but be careful not to offend. This can be a fine line. Remember you're blogging to the University community and potentially to the whole world – don't write something you may come to regret later!
  • Write for the web! People don't like to read on the web – they'll scan pages to pick up interesting or useful information, so make life easier by using short sentences and paragraphs and bullet points.
  • Quality matters – make sure you use correct spelling and grammar and your facts are right!

When?

How often are you going to post? 

And it's important to check regularly for comments so you can respond promptly – this will make your readers confident that you're actively updating and monitoring your blog and will encourage further feedback and create dialogue.

Be consistent in your postings… don't bombard your blog with postings and then do nothing for 3 months. Your readers will prefer to know how often they can expect something

Be timely – if there’s a news story or development related to your topic – post on it in a timely manner

To moderate or not to moderate?

You also need to decide, as the blog owner, whether you want to let people freely post to your blog or do you want to review all comments before they're accepted?

Moderating a blog isn't about curbing freedom of expression, but ensuring comments are legal, not offensive and are appropriate to your blog.

You may wish to consider moderation so the following types of comment are not posted:

  • Comments which break the law or encourage others to do so. E.g. copyright & fair use, defamation, equality and diversity laws
  • Comments which contain abusive or inappropriate language or statements
  • Comments which do not show proper consideration for others’ privacy or are considered likely to offend or provoke others
  • Spam – i.e. repeatedly posting the same comment or comments that are simply advertising/promoting a service or product

However, you must ensure you moderate comments frequently – otherwise you may put people off coming back to the blog if there is a delay in posted comments appearing. 

Tips

  • Have an opinion - engage your readers but don't alienate them!
  • Stay relevant - decide what is the topic of your blog and don't post on things which are irrelevant
  • Don't just write a diary - always ask why you're writing something and what use / aim it has
  • Be consistent - in the number of posts
  • Write for the web. Usual guidelines apply - write for scanning, i.e. bullet points, short sentences etc
  • Link to other useful web sites and blogs

And if you're commenting on a blog post… Try to keep your comments relevant to the entry in question, and bear in mind that very long comments may put off fellow users!