Hi Freelance Switchers!

July 14, 2008

Hi FreelanceSwitch readers! 

For those of you who came here from another source, check out my post on FreelanceSwitch: Freelancers: It’s Not About You.

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I’ve written about Chris Guillebeau before, and he recently emailed me about his new ebook/manifesto with a textbook example of how marketing types/people with something to promote should approach bloggers (but of course he gets it, he has a blog of his own).

It is called A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World *and other Modest Goals.

First of all, with a title like that, how could you not be interested?  More seriously, it is a great and inspiring read, especially if you’ve been in a rut lately.  I agree with much of his philosophy and ideas as well – I’d write more about them, but really, you owe it to yourself to go read it.  Moreover, it is beautifully designed and laid out (and only 29 pages) – perfect for a break from work or a nice literary nightcap.  So go check it out!

Stop what you are doing and go read this poem by Robert Bruce (and check out the rest of his site – KnifeGunPen – while you are at it, his work is fantastic). 

If you are an artist or writer with a blog or website (or thinking about creating one), check out his guest post on Problogger: 27 Thoughts On Blogging For The Artist.  My favorite one is “If you’re thinking about SEO while writing your digital novel, you’re already screwed. Quit now.”

Hat tip to Chris Guillebeau for introducing to his work with this interview.

Global Voices Online has been one of my favorite sites for a while now.  It is a nonprofit project that “seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard.” 

They translate and share posts written by wonderful bloggers from all the world – it is one of the most remarkable examples of citizen journalism on the web, in my opinion.  The founders also started  Global Voices Advocacy (which promotes free speech and defends bloggers from censorship) and Rising Voices (an outreach program that provides knowledge and resources to activists and citizen journalists in under-represented communities). 

The purpose of this love-fest is to point out the upcoming GlobalVoices Summit being held in Budapest at the end of June.  Now, I can only wish I was actually attending, but I’m sure it will be an amazing event – and that there will be lots of fantastic commentary on the conference blog.  Here’s a quote from the site:

“The Global Voices Citizen Media Summit 2008 will explore topics around the theme “Citizen Media and Citizenhood”, and address fundamental issues surrounding the actual and potential role of citizen media producers in the public life of the countries they live in. As the Internet and the increasing accessibility of citizen media tools offer growing numbers of people throughout the world the means to distribute information globally, how does this affect or change the ways in which people participate in public life? Can citizen media make people better citizens? How can citizen media help affect lasting social change?”

Personally, I believe that citizen media and blogging is incredibly important; after all, even the most intrepid reporter can’t cover everything, and besides, there is something very powerful about an individual or group telling their own story. 

 

Read Write Web has a breakdown of the best times (of the day and of the week) to publish new posts.

If you’re a blogger, you might find this very useful:

Want That Post to Go Popular? Here’s the Best and Worst Times to Post It.

This actually does corroborate with my own experiences as a blogger – on both of my blogs (and on other sites I’ve written for/worked on and had access to traffic stats), Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons are the busiest times in terms of traffic, and Saturday is always the slowest day. It makes sense – people are away from their computers on weekends; and during the week they probably read blogs as a quick break from their actual work or during lunch.

If you have a blog, do these stats match up with yours?

On The Road

April 6, 2008

It’s been a while since I last posted (I’ve been on the road), and I’m taking a bit of a break at the moment, but I’ll be back and better than ever with new plans and projects soon.

How To Get Blogged

March 13, 2008

Cory Doctorow (co-editor of the ultra-popular Boing Boing) has an article in Information Week about how to get bloggers to write about you – and as someone who blogs, and contributes to many other blogs and websites, I have to say his tips are solid.

Here’s the link: 17 Tips For Getting Bloggers To Write About You.

And because it bears repeating: using tons of Flash almost always does more harm than good.  It is like the web equivalent of a really gorgeous shoe with a five inch stiletto heel – sometimes beautiful to look at, but not exactly user-friendly.

A couple days ago Abha Malpani from the Written Road posted about online publishing and how it is affecting the way writers of all stripes compose their pieces, whether they are bloggers or journalists or something in between.  She linked this article from Skelliewag – and while I don’t disagree with everything (people do tend to read web content differently than magazines or books), I do take issue with the idea that just because it is web content, “good” writing isn’t necessary. 

Bad writing is bad writing, whether you are reading it on a screen or on dead trees.

Skellie’s main point is that people reading blogs are looking first and foremost for interesting ideas, and if the bloggers behind these ideas happen to be skilled writers as well, so much the better.  In addition, she does correctly point out that people reading online usually scan articles quickly instead of carefully digesting every word, which is probably true – but people also do this with newspapers, magazines, and books.  Scannable content is not limited to the web. 

In addition, Skellie points out that many of the popular bloggers haven’t studied writing or received any real training – but then again, there are plenty of popular authors who didn’t take the traditional route either (however, they do have the advantage of editors to refine and develop their work, unlike most bloggers). 

In some ways, I think Skellie is indeed correct – news blogs, gadget blogs, and other image/fact heavy bloggers don’t need to be amazing writers, but they do need to be capable of expressing themselves clearly.  After all, spelling errors, grammatical mishaps, and poor word choices can overshadow even the best ideas. 

On the other hand, a skilled writer can be much more engaging and memorable, and therefore attract a bigger audience.  Since there is an incredible number of blogs (at the moment, 112.8 million according to Technorati), why would a blogger or a writer – and the line between the two gets blurrier every day – ever settle for simply good enough?

Another important point was made by many of the commenters on the original article – you never know who is reading your blog, and what opportunities they might offer you in the future.  You definitely don’t want anyone to click away because your blog is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, so for the love of Strunk and White, hit spellcheck before you post. 

Publishing a sloppy article is similar to showing up with unkempt hair and wrinkled clothes for a first date or job interview – although you might be the most awesome, talented, and caring person in the world, appearances matter a lot, especially when it comes to first impressions. 

That said, plenty of bloggers do break traditional grammar rules and this can be part of a distinctive voice – but you have to know the rules before you can break them effectively.  There is a huge difference between using slang or insider terminology because it works for your audience/concepts and forgetting to edit before you hit post.  And of course, lists and bullet points and short snappy paragraphs are more popular on the web than in books or magazines, and for good reason – they are simple and usually contain scannable nuggets of information.  They are effective.

In the end, however, the goal of writing is communication – and I believe Skellie’s point is that traditional good writing isn’t a requirement for blogging, because it is a different kind of communication.  He is correct in that you don’t have to be Hemingway (who also valued brevity and clear, concise writing) to be a popular blogger with tons of subscribers – but then again, McDonald’s has served billions too, and very few people would call their food amazing or remarkable – more like “easily accessible” or “good enough”.