Blogs are one of those things that have been around forever in the intertubes. Some blogs are great. Some blogs are awful. But blogs are empowering in that anyone can blog. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has opinions and perspective. Blogs - despite being one of the oldest modes of participative web technologies - are still one of the staples of internet conversation. The tools have gotten better, and we've (as a society) discovered more ways to enhance them and make them engaging. But I'm going to share a few tips and observations I've learned about blogging, and then in my next post, I'll furnish some examples of how to use blogs in education.
Images certainly add visual appeal to a blog. But there are two other reasons why images should always be employed.
- Pinterest will only allow you to pin sites with images. If you don't have an image, you can't be pinned. And Pinterest is a beautiful way to promote your idea quickly.
- Regardless of how your blog is set up for viewing, it may look radically different on a mobile device. FringeEdTech looks just like a plain ole' blog when you visit it from a computer. But from a mobile device, it uses images. So I make sure to place a nice image in my blog.
|Pictures appear, by default, in the mobile view.|
- Always use the alt text when using an image. This is the text that is read on screen readers for visually impaired readers. There are only a few ways to make a blog incompatible to all visitors, and this is one of them.
- Credit photos when you use them. Google's advanced image search has a feature called "usage rights" that helps you find images with specific licenses (including free to use!). You will find some great stuff at the Creative Commons website.
- If you want software to edit photos, I would certainly recommend Pixlr. It's a complete suite that has hardcore software known as Pixlr Editor (think Photoshop) as well as lightweight stuff like Pixlr Express for some nice filters and borders. The whole suite is free and plugs in to Google Drive. For a quick peek, check out the blog I posted in December of 2013.
- I always center my images. I think it makes the page look better. While it's true that an image surrounded by text looks professional, that doesn't always translate well on mobile devices and certainly is problematic if you elect to publish your content in an eBook. The post I did on "mobile mentality" digs a bit deeper into this.
- For the same reason, I also prefer to have a border on all my images. Some blog platforms will allow you to put a border on the image, but there is no guarantee that when someone is reading your blog, the border will be there (because of RSS feeds and mobile viewers). So I always add a 2 pixel border on my images before I put them into the blog. Now I know my readers will enjoy the benefits of a border because it is part of the image. I use Pixlr Express, although PicMonkey does the job too (and also plugs in to Google Drive as well).
And test it before you go live with it. I use Blogger, and there is a "Preview" function built in. Unfortunately, it does not show dynamic content (like photo sliders, videos, links etc.). For this reason, I have another blog set up in Blogger called "Diagnostic". Whenever I'm using content that the previewer won't render, I'll copy my entire post from FringeEdTech and paste it into the Diagnostic one (the Diagnostic blog is not listed, and I delete each post as soon as I'm done testing). The, I'll go "Incognito" ("Private Browsing", "InPrivate" - read my blog about private browsing if you want more information) and check all the links and embedded content to make sure they are functioning properly. Once I'm convinced, I'll delete the post from Diagnostic and publish it in FringeEdTech.
I try view my blog posts on a mobile device frequently. I have the Blogger app (which is not all that spectacular, although viewing my blog on it is the same as viewing it on a mobile device through the web browser). I also have the Glimpse extension in Chrome which gives me a perspective of the mobile version.
I also use the private browsing function whenever I test a link in my blog. I want to know it works for everyone, not just me.
Find the "sweet spot" for publishing.
There's a few different schools of thought about the best time to publish, but my friend (and fellow blogger) Erin publishes on Wednesdays. It makes sense to me, so I try to do that, too. I think Wednesdays or Thursdays are good, and I try to publish in the morning. I suspect that Mondays and Fridays are pretty busy, and who doesn't love some fresh, easy reading during the middle of the week. And I also try to announce a new posting via Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest. I bet more people are listening in the morning than at nine in the evening.
Find your voice.
|My fave favicons|
- This is line one
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- This is line one
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All I did was add the <br /> tag in the HTML. Easy to do, and way prettier to look at.
|When you need a break...|
Being a blogger is good, but being a blogger that can engage other people and reference other bloggers is much better. There's "street cred" to be had. And it builds your fan base (and thus your exposure). Holly, a runner I know, has great engagement on her blog, FueledByLOLZ. She asks pointed questions and interacts with people who leave comments. It gives her readers a sense of ownership.
But more importantly, interact on other people's blogs. That will get you exposure to interaction as well as the opportunity to read some really great blogs. Or terrible blogs. When I was a student teacher in 1999, I had a really great supervising teacher and a really poor one. I learned an awful lot from the great one, but I learned just as much from the bad one (I learned what not to do). Reading blogs will give you perspective.
I'm not even going to go into ways to become involved in social media, but I will tout the value of it. Use social media! Twitter is a great way to draw people to your blog from companies or products you reference in a tweet. Mention "Microsoft" in a tweet about your most recent blog about Publisher, and you'll be visible to the four and a half million people who follow Microsoft on Twitter.
I don't really promote myself on Facebook, although if I have a particularly relevant post that I think many of my Facebook friends will benefit from, I'll post them in my status. But in general, I don't like doing that. I suppose I could create a Facebook page for FringeEdTech, but I haven't yet. I also maintain a Pinterest board. One note about Pinterest - make sure you pin the URL that goes directly to your recent post, not just to the URL of your blog.
I also love Google+. For me, Google+ is the best place for me to find more information about my passions and career. Google+ is a great venue for targeted, niche insight. Especially for me, as I love all things tech. So I make sure to post every time I publish a blog (Blogger will automatically prompt me for that anyhow).
One thing I do when I post a link to my blog is shorten the URL. I like TinyURL because it allows me to customize my new, shorter link. Sure, other services provide an even shorter link, but I can customize my link as tinyurl.com/FET-Blog1. It's free advertising! I can brand the link with my initials (FET).
Blogger and WordPress both offer you the ability to publish pages as well. Pages are merely venues for you to put content up that isn't a blog. I have a page for my biography and one for presentations I do (this is great advertising - whenever I do a presentation, I put all my content up on my blog. That way, I ensure that everyone there can access the material and I introduce them to my blog!).
You can hide pages, too. This means they aren't visible to viewers, but you can always access them directly by punching in the URL. I do that sometimes for things I want to share with certain people, but don't want to make public.
One last lesson about blogging - don't put as many links in one post as I just did. I went link crazy. But that's because I think there is a lot of valuable information that demands further exploration. So go explore!
That's everything I know about blogging. I hope there's something you can takeaway from this post. I'd be interested to hear how you use blogs in your classroom. Please also comment on tips that you have for bloggers!