The power of pen and paper

I am a fan of using pen and paper, it is nice to see others post along the same lines. In “The Power of Analog Writing” is this part which I agree on:

Putting down plans, notes, ideas, and hunches in a notebook can be a great way to help organize your mind, as well as sharpen it. We tend to remember things jotted down by hand better than words hammered on a keyboard.

Over at Anywired Skellie posted “Origami Productivity: Why I Don’t Want a Paperless Life”. The start goes like this:

I love paper in all its forms and always have. In fact, if given the choice between a notebook and a web app to fulfill the same function, I’ll choose a notebook every time.

Previous pen and paper related posts are:
Be productive using pen and paper
The back-to-paper movement
Task management my way – pen and paper.

Note: Photo by Chris Campbell.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Money for nothing

Seth Godin has published a free e-book titled ‘Money for nothing (and your clicks for free)’. Quotes from his post:

There’s an enormous amount of superstition about what makes some pages rank high while others languish. When you look at the actual figures, though, much of that fades away.

It turns out that the new playing field enforced by the search engines is eliminating many of the shortcuts that used to be effective. In other words, the best way is the long way.

The long way is to create content that is updated, unique and useful.

Those three U’s are not that simple. Useful and updated are the easy ones, unique is a different issue. The e-book is short but food for thought and includes links that shows more about what Seth means.

Read Seth’s post.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

How to write well

It is a bold title but I have gathered links around this for a while and add some of my own comments along the way.

Brian Clark at Copyblogger writes about Ernest Hemingway’s Top 5 Tips for Writing Well which actually are four of Hemingway’s and one of Brian’s. Rule number one, Use short sentences, is worth keeping in mind. It does make the text more reader-friendly.

Skellie posts about “Little Words, Big Meaning”, your writing can be short (under 200 words) and still meaningful. I like shorter posts, if you got much to say about a topic then why not create a series of posts instead of one long.

Sarah Lewis at Blogging Expertise writes about “Four tips for structuring your blog articles”. Her fourth rule is what Hemingway said, Keep your Sentences Short. The other three are about making the post easier to read, web is different from paper.

Sarah Lewis also writes about “What makes a good blog post?”. I do not think all posts need to be laser-focused but I agree on linking to relevant information. For me that is added value, it gives more information if I want to go there.

Brian Clark at Copyblogger has a post about Three Ways to Spice Up Any Blog Post. I think the final comment, Develop a Distinctive Voice, is important. Confidence in your own style might not be asy to find but

While you’ll always want to keep pushing your boundaries, a writer who is comfortable and confident in her own style naturally ends up an effective writer.

Joanna Young at Confident Writing writes about How to be a total reader magnet: pulling the readers that you want. Guess what, short sentences are mentioned here too.

Skellie posts over at DailyBlogTips about 10 Tips for Writing Bookmarkable Content.

Michael Martin at Pro Blog Design lists 30 Ways to Improve Readability. The list is a mix of design tips at blog level and tips that are relevant to posts.

I round it off with Use These 10 Tips to Write Your Most Popular Post Ever from Daily Blog Tips.

See more in How to write well part 2.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Top 5 things I look for in a blog

These are the top 5 things I look for in a blog.

1. Looks and style.
I prefer a clean look where content is king. Too much clutter drives me away. Ads can bring home money to the site but if the ads are all over the place and are more prominent than the content then something is wrong. Sound is annoying unless I can control it, turning it on or off based on what I want there and then.

2. Personality.
Information can be found in many places. What makes a blog and a blog post stand out is often the personal touch. I do not mean tearing your heart out, I mean adding your own view and thoughts based on your own experience. A personal style in writing, not just lining up the facts, is what makes me long for more.

3. Food for thoughts.
Whether I agree or disagree, I do like it when a blog post makes me think. A post that challenges me or makes me see things from a different perspective is gold.

4. Content and structure.
We often enter a blog on a single post we found somehow, through a search engine or a link. This makes it important for the blog to connect the dots in a user friendly manner. Using things like categories, tags and related posts in a smart way keeps the reader there browsing more posts. If I see that a blog has many interesting posts I bookmark it or subscribe to its feed. But if I can not find my way around the blog I leave.

5. Links.
A blog that has many links is useful, you can continue reading about a specific topic elsewhere. To me it means that the blogger has done some research and is willing to share sources.

What about my own blog?
The readers should vote on this but I can say what I try to achieve in these areas.
1. I have neither ads nor sound and have picked a theme that I think has the content as centerpiece.
2. Well, I think I need to get better at this.
3. This is up to the readers, I post about things that I have been thinking about.
4. I use categories and site search tags but not related posts.
5. I use links whenever I find it useful for my posts, to name sources as well as additional reading.

This is my submission for the Top 5 – Group Writing Project at Problogger.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Recommendations to a blogger, part 2

Part one is Top three things I recommend a blogger.

Daniel Sweet from FRACAT gives his best blogging tips:

  • I believe personality is vitally important. There are a *lot* of places to get information on the web. Being who people *want* to get that information from is a vital differentiator.
  • Plug-ins are great (and I need to get that comment one), but don’t get carried away. Do you remember the first document you ever created when you first had access to a ton of fonts? That’s the way an over-plug-inned blog looks.
  • Make it welcoming to your readers. Don’t make them have to go through backflips to comment or get in touch with you. They’ll just leave instead.
  • Edit! Sometimes it’s hard to see that I edit my blog postings. However, there are huge chunks left “on the cutting room floor”. If your posts tend to be long (like mine), make a post and the cut it in half.

In the previous post I wrote “Personality is good but do not let that get in the way of creating things worth reading”. But I agree with Daniel, in order to become the one who people *want* to get information from then personality is needed to stand out from the crowd.

Keeping the blog clean, my tip from part 1, matches Daniel’s warning about not using too many plug-ins.

Editing is important, also in short posts. I usually edit my posts several times before clicking on Publish. And I sometimes review older posts, to add (or remove) some text or to link to some blog that adds more value to my post.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

Top three things I recommend a blogger

There is an interesting discussion over at “LinkedinBloggers” about the top three things you recommend a blogger. I got good recommendations and it made me think about what is important for me in a blog.

Jason Alba from “JibberJobber” started out with this list:

  • keeping it clean – don’t make the readers search for your content, one of the best things that happened to me was when Google kicked me off of their advertising program (dang click-frauder)
  • high quality posts, or they won’t come back
  • lots of links out to pertinent blogs, to get on their radar
  • offline or real networking, where in addition to linking to another blogger you try and develop a relationship with him/her
  • writing just the right length – and if appropriate, ask questions to encourage comments
  • transparency and personality – Penelope Trunk is a master of this, even though she gets slammed a lot she has a loyal following
  • controversy is … good for eyeballs, but is it on-brand? Most of my posts aren’t controversial… some have been, but don’t slam, flame, etc.

Rick Calvert from “Blog World Expo Blog” added these:

  1. Unless you are a super blogger with tons of comments send a thank you email to every new commenter if they agree with you or not. Especially the trolls. Kill em with kindness and you will win new fans and readers.
  2. email other bloggers when they post something you really like. People like to be recognized for their efforts. Even A list bloggers.
  3. email other bloggers when you post something really good that you think they might be interested in. Don’t spam them every time you post. We all post something every once in a while that we think is particularly good. When you do, promote yourself politely and people will link to you, particularly if you have linked to them in the past.

My own take echoes some of the ones above:

  • Keeping it clean is one of my key tips. I always assume that the text is the main issue, everything else is just complimentary. Do not use bigger images than needed (like huge RSS-buttons), do not list every RSS-service you can think of, do you really benefit from ads.
  • Think about what shows up on the screen, before scrolling. Put the most important information at the top of your side menu.
  • Have a layout that is nice to the reader, it shall be easy on the eyes! I have seen blogs with four columns with text in just one narrow column that becomes a mile long.
  • Quality text is needed and do not write too short posts (I need to work on that).
  • Try to focus on a limited number of topics or the blog gets too fussy.
  • Be generous and link to other blogs, guiding visitors to related sites create networks.
  • Personality is good but do not let that get in the way of creating things worth reading, do share knowledge and ideas.

I know, my list has more than three tips but they are all important to me.

See also Recommendations to a blogger, part 2.

This was originally posted at another (now extinct) blog of mine.

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