Blogging for Beginners - Posting and Commenting Tips

In this instalment of "Blogging for Beginners" I'd like to answer a few questions, and explain the simple things you can do to make it easier for potential readers to find your posts. Subscribers (people who have put the RSS feed from your blog into something like Bloglines) won't need these, but how is anyone going to become a subscriber unless they read one of your posts?

Write something worth reading!

I don't claim to have any clear idea of what constitutes a good post, but there's clearly no point drawing huge crowds to your blog if they find mince when the get there! ProBlogger (a blog that covers every aspect of blogging in much more detail than I have in this series) has a category full of great advice on writing worthwhile content.

Liz asked me how long a blog post should be. ProBlogger has an answer of sorts here.

Actually, ProBlogger has the answer to just about everything! You should definitely stick it in your RSS reader because it's full of useful advice.

Tag your posts.

Now that you've got something worth reading in your blog, you want people to be able to find it. Help them by adding tags (or categories) to you posts. All blogging software allows you to put posts into multiple categories, and many also allow you to add Technorati tags. These categories and tags make it much easier for readers to find relevant material.

Track conversations with CoComment.

As I said in the last post, commenting on other people's blogs is what keeps the blogosphere going. It becomes very time consuming to keep track of all these conversations once you've written comments on more than a handful of blogs. This is where CoComment comes to the rescue. Once you've registered (free again!) and installed the Firefox add-on the comments you make are automatically tracked. You can subscribe to a feed of all comments made subsequent to yours. Very cool! I gather it even works with other browsers ;)

Comments

  1. 'RSS'?

    What's that? A type of bank account ;)

    Ok, playing the Devil's advocate.

    Can you give us a detailed but basic account of RSS, what it is, how to get it and how to use it?


    I would if I had time, but I am sure you will make a better job of it Robert ;)

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  2. Erm... I tried to do that in my last post - weren't you paying attention Tess ;) ?:
    RSS feeds are tiny files that each blog produces. They list all the recent posts on a blog, and can be used with an RSS reader to keep an eye on lots of blogs without having to go visit them all every day. Register with Bloglines (free) and add feeds from your favorite blogs.

    More detailed accounts can be found at the BBC, Wikipedia and in this blog post by Waldo Jaquith.

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  3. Yes Robert, I read this.

    'Tiny files'..... What files?
    'RSS Reader'........ eh?


    I don't think 'linking' is enough detail.

    I am being lazy in not writing my own post here. I admit.

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  4. Jeez, you're a hard taskmaster Tess! If I get some more requests for it, I'll write an "RSS for beginners" post over the weekend :)

    Seriously though, there's no point in my rewriting what's already be said so well elsewhere. Those links I'm giving you are gold, I tell ya!

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  5. I know that Robert, but links mean nothing to newcomers, or peeps that read blogs, but don’t blog yet or comment yet.

    I am the Devil’s advocate tonight :P

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  6. Robert, "could we have an RSS for beginners post please" :-D - seriously, this is a great series of posts that I'd like to refer people to, so a good description of RSS and what it does would be great!

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  7. Please, please, please an RSS for beginners post please. Yes I did read your last offering and yes I did follow some of the links and no I have no idea what it's all on about. Ran out of time to figure it out for myself and am just being lazy asking you to do it for me. Spoon feeding sounds good.

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  8. Sorry I should have said that David sent me a list of feeds for Bloglines and I have managed to get that to work without too much pain.
    Cheers
    GM

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  9. Well ooookay. If you all insist! I must disagree with you though, Tess, when you say that links mean nothing to readers. How could anyone have made it to my blog without understanding how to click on a link?

    I'm not quite sure what you are all looking for. If you want to know how to use feeds, I feel like I said it all in the previous post - blogs produce lists of recent posts (and comments) in a format that can be interpreted by software. These lists are called feeds. You can subscribe to these lists with software called feed readers, or aggregators, so that you see any new posts from one page instead of having to trawl around all the blogs you like. That's it basically :)

    I'm not trying to avoid writing the post - I would just like a bit of advice before I start.

    If you want to know the technical details of feeds - RSS, ATOM etc and how they actually work - we'd need to start with HTML, then XML, then talk about Web servers, then get a basic understanding of how a Web application works. Then we would maybe be ready to look in detail at how an RSS feed gets produced by a blog and interpreted by a feed reader. I can certainly explain all this stuff, but I'm not sure you average blogger, let alone "beginning blogger", would be interested!

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  10. Hi Robert.

    Great converse starting. I hope I haven’t opened a ‘Can of worms’ for you here.

    I would firstly like to modify my earlier comment due to my great haste in typing.

    ‘Links mean nothing to newcomers’

    Of course links are useful to newcomers. Indeed, they lie at the very heart of blogging. But, in context, a link takes you to a great wealth of text information, where usually only a paragraph or a sentence in the page is actually relevant to the point being illustrated. Rather like report writing, it can be time consuming skim reading text to find the information you want. I am a great fan of a simple quote from a page and, obviously, an acknowledging link. I know a few of my friends/colleagues that would read a blog but, for them, to sift through links is just far to time consuming. I would also like to point out that blogging is something that no teacher has time to do during the school day. I hope I am not wrong in assuming that we all blog through choice during our own personal time, respectively enhancing our profession?

    I think your recent posts on blogging have been excellent. Indeed, I wrote a post referring people to you. If you have the time and passion, I think further posts relating blogging and the ‘technical’ stuff will be well received. I for one will continue referring people to your site. You are very good at explaining concepts. I am aware that what I am typing about is something that you are already very good at doing. For your posts to be worth while and cover all levels of understanding in ICT you might want to think more closely about the following:

    (For the purpose of illustrating my point, I will use the ‘blog’ as the subject.)

    Descriptions and methods
    ‘A Blog is…… Quote…..link…..quote..link. If you click on the links below, you can see some examples of great blogs’
    Use of Metaphors
    ‘Using a blog can do…………….. A bit like………….)’
    Screenshots, Screenshots, Screenshots!!!!!!!!
    There is nothing better than seeing a screenshot of what you are meant to be looking at. Much better than trying to create a vision.

    All of the above must be very basic. I mean exceptionally basic. The learning curves that occur in ICT literacy are just immense. Personally, there is nothing more satisfying that learning how to create and develop something new on my PC. A kind of delayed gratification with a positive reinforcement.

    I am all for encouraging people to keep a blog. If pro bloggers find your posts too basic, they may not read them. So what! I say. I, for one, am certain that they would credit you for the encouragement you could provide in networking.

    Just a few thoughts before the weekend :)

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  11. Ooops! Just read through my comment.

    Sorry can I add a forward slash to Metaphors?

    Metaphors/similes

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  12. Thanks Tess - i agree completely that a pile of links to long posts is not helpful. I really think, though, that the articles I pointed to earlier do a great job of explaining feeds. Nonetheless, I'll try to write something this weekend. Are you sure you don't want to do it yourself though? It sounds as though you have lots of good ideas about how it should look :)

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  13. Jonesie (is Robert your Sunday name?)

    This is a great conversation -and really helpful.

    What learners need is a pathway through the information, until they have the skills to evaluate the difference between necessary, useful and nice to add on.

    Regarding RSS, I have to confess that I followed Ewan's enthusiastic instructions on using RSS recently, set up an account on Bloglines and then...couldn't quite get the point of it. I don't go back to it regularly, but trawl round the blogs I like.

    Sorry to be dense, but what exactly are the advantages?

    I'm not especially interested in HOW it works technically. As Tess said, some of us need metaphors. I want to know where it comes in the great scheme of things. At the moment -metaphor coming up- RSS is that expensive answering machine I got because my brother says he can't live without it. I don't use it very often, and often ponder the question of what on earth he does with it.

    Do you make bloglines your homepage or what? Do you get it to email you if its updated and so on?

    Go on. You really can't make it too simple. Believe me!

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  14. Hi Robert.

    Write the post myself?
    Would I? Yes.
    Could I? I am not sure. After the recent converse, I don’t think I am competent enough at using RSS and the like yet. I have only been blogging for 4 months. However, rather than wait in anticipation for you to write a post that I can then nit pick at, could we take a collegiate approach? Danger Mouse and Penfold (Not to mention metaphors again!)

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  15. Hello Mr. Jones! It's Mr. French from across the sea with the crazy calculus class. I just thought you'd like to know you've become something of a cult figure with my students. In fact, you made it into some of their calculus/math holiday songs this year! Here's a link to one of their videos. The girl on the right is Sophie...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI2HPAfH5no
    Thank you for your comments!
    Mr. French

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  16. Excellent! I've asked one of my classes to come up with a Scottish reply. Hopefully we'll have something to post before we break for the holidays.

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  17. Dear Jonesieboy,

    Very informative. And, I follow directions well, so I am commenting and leaving a link :) It would be presumptuous from me to assume that you may find my blog interesting, but I'll do it nevertheless. It is in its infancy, so don't judge too harshly.

    Best,
    e

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  18. Hi Emina. You blog is actually very interesting - I've added it to my feed reader :)

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