Tag Archives: blogs

Doing the Blog Thing

Recently a colleague mentioned that faculty in his discipline on our campus were thinking about starting a group blog. He asked me which platform I thought would be the best for the new publication.

In reality any platform can work once you get the hang of it. All of them have their special capabilities as well as frustrations.

I have experience with Blogger and Movable Type as implemented at Penn State. Both have their advantages. I think Blogger would be a very good choice for a group blog. Editing is simple and it is easy to add multiple authors.

At Penn State the Movable Type blogs are tied to a single person’s PASS space (personal university account), which is rather awkward for  hosting multiple writers. I have seen in the help section that it is possible to add other writers, but departmental blogs are not possible. (Follow this link to instructions of additional editors.) If the blog deals more with academic issues it’s nice to use the tool the University provides. I believe that the Penn State blogs’ managers are developing some new tools for search and aggregating articles that will be very helpful for the internal audience. 

Going beyond the choice of platform I started to think about what qualities make for a good blog, especially if more than one person will be contributing articles. Following are some of my ideas. I don’t promise that I do all of them all the time myself, but they are worth considering.

  • Decide who will be the audience. Will it be current students, alumni, or outside people interested in the topic or discipline? Each audience would have different needs. In one blog the different audiences can be addressed in different entries.
  • Make sure all the authors are committed. If just one person on the team does all the writing the blog won’t be successful. Stories don’t have to be long. They aren’t like a professional journal article. They do have to keep coming, though.
  • Good writing is critical, of course. However, blogs live on links. Stories should link to other stories or quote from them. The more that a sense of dialog comes out the more interesting the blog will be. Connectedness is critical.
  • Use plenty of pictures and graphics. These will make the blog interesting. People love to look at pictures. Pictures of themselves are even better. Make sure everyone knows their picture will be published. There are still the camera shy among us!
  • Publicize the blog relentlessly. Link to the blog from ANGEL, the campus web site, or personal sites. Refer to it in emails. Make sure the audience knows it is there.
  • Also in the publicity mode, take advantage of RSS feeds. The readers should have your blog bookmarked or entered into their favorite RSS reader (like Google Reader).
  • Use categories and tags (Labels in Blogger). This will help reader search for your articles. You can aggregate articles on a particular theme and send the links out to anyone who is interested.
  • Encourage readers to comment. This will get them involved in your stories.
  • Add widgets to the blog in the sidebars. This will add visual interest to the blog. It’s also a good way to show what interests the writers.
  • Use some kind of metric program to see who your audience is. There are many free services out there who kind provide reams of data on your readers.
  • Have fun with it. Blogs are for sharing. They have to show your enthusiasm for your field. Keep it positive. A little bit of humor can help a lot.

I am hoping to add more ideas as they come to me. I hope this is helpful!

How to start blogging at Penn State

What should your blog have by now (10/6/2008)

I have spent time this weekend going over the student blogs. There are some very creative efforts, so far.

Here are some things I am expecting to see in all the blogs, so far.

  • Use a professional style, the one with a main page and tabs.
  • Create a redirect home page. This is so that anyone typing in your home page won’t see the temporary place holder.
  • Change the header photo on the blog opening page. No roosters or foliage please!
  • Write an coherent introduction for your opening page. Who are you? What are interested in? Why should I want to read your blog?
  • Use tags and categories for your entries.
  • Watch the spelling and grammar of your entries. Although bog entries tend to be informal, they should be readable.

FORT 120 Blogs

I have loaded the FORT 120 blogs into Google Reader. See if your blog is included. If not, let me know ASAP.