Thoughts on blogging and digital citizenship

Most of us know what a blog is, but what makes them important? A few reasons include:

  • Blogs promote content creation
  • Encourage interaction
  • Resist control – networks are built from the bottom up, rather than top down.

Before the 1990s there were few ways for people to easily publish their own sites online without a significant amount of HTML knowledge.  The weblog (originally often called a web diary) was not the first online content platform, but it was the first all-in-one package.

Creation vs. Filter

Bloggers generally fall into two categories: Creators and Filters. Creators create work and share it via blogging—writing, art, photography, music, etc. Filters re-post creative work—they do the job of sifting through the internets and selecting material to share with others.

There are plenty of blog platforms now, though the biggest tend to be tumblr, blogger, and WordPress. Each of these have a “territory” in the vast semantic field of the internet. Tumblr tends to be more visually based and also acts more as a filter, Blogger tends to hold a middle ground (and is really easy to use as it is Google-based), while WordPress tends to be closest to a full-fledged web site and even has downloadable free source-code so that you can host a site on your own server.

Some of the considerations for a blog, before you even set it up, are:

  • Topic(s) – what is your blog centrally about? Think about creating scope rather than a singular topic so you have more room to be creative (motorcyle culture versus the ducati supermono). But note that as your scope widens, your readership falls. People go to blogs because they want to read about something, not everything.
  • Authors – is your blog just yours, or do you want a writing gang?
  • Audience – Whom do you want to read your blog? This can help you in determining your next consideration:
  • Tone – blog writing tends to be more informal than a research paper, but  in order to keep an audience it must still be written well. Length is also a consideration as most blog readers don’t want to scroll through a reaaaallllllyy long piece—they’d rather see it as a series of discrete posts.
  • Frequency – how often will you be able to post? If you are thinking about maintaining a blog, acquiring readers, and perhaps even monetizing it, you will need to post at least once a week.
  • Privacy vs. Ownership – this is important to all levels of digital citizenship: do you want to have your name publicly known and attached to specific content, or do you want to create a “handle?” Sharing your real name with the world may give your writing a degree of ownership—you get the kudos on a good post, but you also have a higher degree of responsibility and there can be fall-outs—what if you want to write about something really personal, but don’t want to share it with some people in your community? A handle solves some of this with anonymity, but also doesn’t allow anyone to actually give the first-life you credit. Some writers however use the same handle over and over across multiple online platforms to create an online persona.

Now that you’ve had a brief introduction, let’s get started with the nuts and bolts of starting a blog. For this example, we’ll use WordPress:

1. Navigate to wordpress.com, and, if you don’t have a WP account, click on Get Started.

free blog here

2. Fill in the form

WPform

3. Click on the free address option

Free address

4. Click on Create Blog

create blog

5. Go to your email and activate the blog

6. Follow WordPress’ directions (basically, set up your blog)

7.Don’t forget to explore! Make sure you get to know your dashboard on the left.

WP menu

Now that you’ve got your blog started, have given thought to how you want to use it, and have taken a look around, you may also want to consider the following:

  • Private or public – Will your blog be available to all to just the readers you choose?
  • Blogroll – Who do you want to include in your blogroll? What kind of community do you want to build?
  • Subjects – What are the five main topics of your blog?
  • Tags – What are the keywords you can attach to different posts? Be creative!
  • Comments – (under settings) Do you want to allow comments? Moderate?
  • Layout: Some recommendations: if you’re interested in promoting your blog, think about including the +1 Button, and Popular posts widgets. If you can categorize your blog into component themes, you may want to consider multiple pages as well. I also recommend using the Follow by email so your readers can choose to be notified when you have written a new post.
  • Take a look at the other settings as well—there may be others that fit your blog perfectly.

This should get you started—let me know if you have any questions!


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