The conference, on the whole, was really worthwhile. Best of all was the opportunity to spend a day surrounded by other bloggers and blog readers. Apparently they’re looking at making this an annual event, which would be really good. As Duncan Riley said during the opening panel, we need to promote the Australian blogosphere, and our fellow bloggers. So share the link love, and get yourself to the next BlogOz!
You can find more BlogOz goodness via Technorati.
Discussion leaders: Duncan Riley and Yaro Starak
(This session was pretty much a dialogue, so some attribution is undoubtedly missing)
How to get a better blog?
- Riley: Must have comments, preferably unmoderated, and don’t make people create an account to comment – comment is value-add, it’s where the really interesting stuff happens.
- How do you get people to comment? Have a WYSIWYG editor, label commenting functionality clearly. Get involved. Go out and comment on other blogs in your niche area, link to posts from other bloggers in your niche area. Build community and relationships with readers and potential readers.
- Starak: Blog carnivals: one person hosts the carnival, their job is to review all the submissions to that carnival, on a particular niche topic. Person who’s choosing picks the best to be featured in that week’s carnival. blogcarnival.com. Carnival of Australia are interested in new content. Talking about the effectiveness of carnivals – can plateau out in terms of new authors. Requires traction, need critical mass of users for it to work.
- Riley: It’s good karma to link to other people. Even a linkroll is a good thing to do. Not as many people have linkrolls these days. If you link to someone without expecting anything in return, it’s gonna come back to you.
How can a blog help a business?
- Riley: everybody has a story, no matter what you do you can blog about it. Customer testimonials (but be careful about tone, needs to seem authentic), news about the industry, can help you improve search engine results, blogs get page ranked higher than a static page because Google likes fresh content.
Importance of knowing what’s going on in the blogosphere
- Riley: Feed readers – know what the competition is doing, you absolutely need to use a feed reader to do this. Gets through 300 blogs in under 20 minutes every morning [note to self: read faster!]
- What do I blog about? Well, you can blog about what other people blog about, for a start! Attribution is obviously important.
- In niche, technology areas, you really have to be on the pulse with what’s happening, right on time.
- Keeping on top of what’s happening and being a great, popular blogger takes time – lots of good bloggers don’t sleep much!
Corporate efficiency and blogs; how can companies use blogs?
- Riley talks about Microsoft and IBM’s use of corporate intranet blogs for development ideas. Wikis are huge in corporate environments. Twittering is being used by companies now. Blogging can facilitate anonymous, honest feedback from staff.
- Blogging is a tool, in a marketing perspective it’s a tool for communicating with customers.
- Wikis are great for business. Blogs are great for discussion, but wikis are great for working documents and referring back to etc.
Mistakes you can make as a blogger: the don’t list
- Starak: There are some ‘don’t go with’ people for blog services. WordPress is great, Typepad is good for hosted.
- If you’re taking blogging seriously, you need to own your blog (ie don’t go for one of the providers that effectively own your blog) and have your own domain name. And as a next step, to even host it yourself. namecheap.com for domain names.
How important is design?
- Not that important an issue because design is easy, especially if you’re using something like WordPress, for which there are tens of thousands of templates available. You can get a good template designed for you for a few hundred dollars.
- elance does good templates.
- You do want to have a professional looking blog. An ugly site detracts from the content, no matter how good the content.
What is good design?
- Decent sized font, no white text on black [ohhhhh!].
- CSS compliant – people use other browsers, test on other browsers, firefox is pushing 40% market share in Australia now – CSS compliance should go a long way to ensuring accessibility.
- Unique Blog Design are doing really great work at really low cost. Start off with a template and modify it, then get people in to help you when you hit a road block.
- Columns: maximise readability, have your content up in top left hand corner; if you’re looking for add revenue, adds on the left, content on the right.
- SEO: title of your blog post is the most important element in terms of blogging. Riley: put the post title at the top of the browser, not your blog title. WordPress plug in called “SEO title tag” can do this for you.
Managing the back end
- Are there people who will come in and look after the back end for you? Yes, but when you’re starting out it’s good to do stuff yourself and learn. Starak: There are people who will do it for you really, really cheap. eg Ninja Blog Setup (set up company) – will come in and set up your blog for you with all the plug ins.
- Riley: If you’re passionate about blogging, it doesn’t hurt to know about the back end and how all the technical stuff works. He says he’s a better person for knowing how it all works! Never done any courses, he’s just experimented and taught himself as he goes. But he says if you don’t have a lot of time, you’re better off using it for developing content rather than tweaking code.
- Good for sales oriented blogs to pull people in, follow up on leads, create a buzz. Not necessarily as useful for content driven blogs.
- Starak: what would happen if they added a newsletter to TechCrunch? Not that they need to… Not trying to sell a product, not trying to build up numbers because they’ve got heaps of subscribers, it’s a brand of it’s own.
Establishing a brand
- Riley: TechCrunch is an amazing brand… smart stuff – look at what they do with quarterly parties, TechCrunch40… Build a brand if you want to be big in blogging. If you really want to cut through, the blog should be about the brand, not about you.
How often should you blog?
- Depends on what you’re trying to be. If you’re a news source, you need to blog a lot.
- What do you want to achieve? What is my objective?
- Riley: wanted to be a Technorati Top 100 blog. It took him two and a half, three years to get there.
- Riley: It takes six to nine months to establish a blog, 12 months to really see results out of it.
Can a media release help with blog readership?
- Yes, if you’re doing something unique, geo-targeted… it can work. Maybe we do need to do more of this, if we’re going to promote the Australian blogosphere.
Any successful blogs in the university area?
- PhD students blog about their research, famous in the academic community, but probably not breaking out of that area.
- What about internally? Lecturer to student. Blogs are used a lot for online learning, at QUT in BlackBoard, for reflective practice.
- One participant mentioned that he uses a blog for students to post their tutorial papers, and the comments act in lieu of interaction face-to-face in tuts – face-to-face interaction becomes secondary to the dialogue that happens in the comments.
Advice on tone, person/voice to write in?
- If it’s a personal blog, first person; if you’re trying to be newsy, then use a journalistic style. But sometimes you can mix it up, start out with a journalistic, reporting style, and then move into ‘and I’ve used this and this is what I found…’.
- No style guide for TechCrunch.
- Blogs are personal, people expect a conversational, humanised tone.
- Starak: the more opinionated you are, the more attention you’ll get.
- Riley: most people respect your right to have an opinion, as long as it’s well researched and well founded.
- Starak: work your personality.
- Riley: be yourself. People will catch you out if you’re being inauthentic.
Academic blogs: blogs for research output?
- Put it in a paper or put it in a blog post?
- Concept of the culture of amateurs.
- Access to information – blogs can enable the discussions of academia [they make academic thought available to the public]. Equal platform, equal access.
- More people are writing, reading as a result of blogs, which has to be a good thing.
Are people in Queensland less likely to read and write blogs?
- Apparently so…
- Why? Because the weather’s nicer here? Because broadband access isn’t great everywhere?
Ethics of anonymous blogging?
- Some people do it for therapy. As a ‘tool’ to enable defamation? Sure, people do it. Is it right, no. But it’s logical that if you’re going to defame someone, you’d be smart to do it anonymously.
- Blogging under an alias – eg the shoe blogger Manolo.
- It is possible to blog privately, to a selected group of invited members.
- Facebook as an example of private blogging (not anonymous but private), micro blogging on there, and it’s a reasonably closed community – pretty much only your friends can see it.
Ethics around altering a post once it’s published
- General rule is you don’t do it, unless you use a strike through or an update note, but lots of people do it from time to time.