So, I blinked… and suddenly six months went by without a peep on this blog. Life has been doing what it does best – barreling along while I try to keep up. Where have I been? Right here, but buried under a pile of projects, a gaggle of committees, and a series of attempts at getting non-library, non-technology related hobbies.
Life’s not easing up but blogging has been on my mind lately, in more ways than one.
In my last post, I raised some questions measuring the success or otherwise of 2.0ish projects. I’m still thinking about this stuff – constantly. The time for me to evaluate mpow’s new blogging project is rapidly approaching, and I’m starting to look in earnest for literature on other libraries’ evaluations of similar projects. I’m still not turning up a lot.
I’m spending a fair bit of time thinking about what success for a project like this looks like. It’s a difficult thing to conceptualise. And obviously it’s something that needs to be conceptualised before you can figure out what sort of data you need to measure that success.
Of course, success for this project will be measured against our aims and objectives for the project – some of which relate to topics quite apart from the level of usage the blog has garnered, including aims like trialling blogging as a service delivery platform, and providing staff with an opportunity to get familiar and comfortable with blogging in the public domain (and with the technology itself).
But what other things should we be looking at? What, in general terms, makes a blog successful?
This is something I think a lot of bloggers get hung up on, so it gets its own sub heading. To what extent is success in blogging about “conversational intensity”?
We’re not getting a great deal of comments (I’ve got a theory about why that is, which I’ll probably blog about later), and I’m not particularly phased by that at this point. I had a chat with a colleague about the appropriateness of using blogs without being too concerned about generating conversation. She indicated she thought that a blog without multi-way conversation (ie with little commenting) misses the point of blogging. Her feeling is that conversation is a fundamental element of blogging.
I think I agree, to a certain extent, but I’m not convinced that blogs that exist without active commenting don’t have their own role to play. After all, we know that there are lots of different types of participants in this participatory web: consumers of information; occasional content producers (commenters); active content producers; and so on. (And this doesn’t even take into account the idea of using a blog as a CMS of sorts – people do great stuff with WordPress-driven websites. But that’s a little different.) Does it really matter if you don’t get a whole host of comments? Is there a ratio of comments to page views* that indicates a blog is successful in facilitating conversation?
In my opinion, level of conversation is a measure you should get hung up on only if it’s a primary aim for your blogging project.
Attributes of a successful blog
So, if the success of a blog does not hinge on conversational intensity, on what does it hinge (other than the blog’s aims and objectives)?
According to Asterisk, a successful blog is:
- Well written
- Frequently updated
- Well designed
- Aware of its audience
- Varied in topic
- Thick skinned
Are these the kind of success measures against which libraries should be assessing their blogs? Are subjective measures like these valid? And how do we measure against them? These measures do appeal to me. Or some of them do – some are obviously personal preference things, and dependent on the type of blog (like funniness, for eg) but others could be useful.
An obvious thing to measure is readership – subscribers, site visits, post views and so forth. But how do you decide whether the level of readership is enough to mean success? And, in the case of our project, whether the level of readership is enough to warrant a transition from pilot to permanent service? Do we work with a ratio of site views for the blog versus site views for the library’s website? And if so, do we compare to page views for the library’s home page, or do we look at page views for the young people’s page on our website and compare to that? Do we look at site views for the blog versus population in our region for the target audience?
Is their any validity in looking at participation in polls? What if we created polls for the express purpose of getting a feel for the number of people who might participate? What would that tell us?
Clearly, my thoughts on evaluating blogging projects are still fairly nebulous, and I know I need to do some research outside the library field to see how (or even if) other industries are evaluating the success of customer facing, service oriented blogs. But I do want to here from other library-types on this, and it appears I aint gonna find what I need in the literature.
So now that that I’ve just suggested that conversation may not mean much in an assessment of a blog’s success, I’m going to try and start one. Tell me, readers (if there are any of you left, after my six month hiatus): what do you think the markers of a successful library-land blog might be? What are the attributes of a successful blog? If you were evaluating a blogging project, what data would you be collecting and what would you be comparing to? How would you decide if your blog is a success?
* Conversational intensity is often measured by dividing total comments by total posts, but I think another useful metric would be to get a feel for the number of visitors who feel compelled to get involved in a conversation.