9 posts about blogging
I've been using this tutorial from Alexandra Samuel to set up a workflow that allows you to 1.) post to your blog 2.) post to del.ico.us and 3.) save all your links using spurl.com, all at the same time. This, I think will work well for a new biofuels community website that I'm working on with people in (and around) Piedmount Biofuels here in NC. Pardon any mess I make while I'm tinkering.
The Committee to Protect Bloggers is shutting down! Can anyone help?
If you are an individual or a company with sufficient funds to sponsor the Committee's activities for a year, please contact committeetoprotectbloggers(at)gmail(dot)com. Website: http://committeetoprotectbloggers.civiblog.org/
The CPB has long been (um, in internet terms, I mean, that being all of 2005) a great resource for finding information about "blogging under fire." From their website, the CPB has several main purposes:
1.) A clearinghouse for information on incarcerated members of our community, as well as those whose lives have been taken from them because of their enthusiasm for the free exchange of information that blogging allows.
2.) A pressure group to force governments to free imprisoned bloggers, and make restitution for tortured and murdered ones.
3.) CPB will bring to bear the formidable communicative power of the blogosphere to keep pressure on governments to stop arresting and abusing bloggers and to mitigate or reverse measures designed to restrict speech.
4.) CPB will act as direct agents in negotiations to free imprisoned bloggers.
If you are interested and able, please visit their site or email them.
(FYI. I have no connection to CPB)
Here's this via Audio Activism, for folks in the Triangle, NC area. Looks to be a great night of the up-and-coming Triangle blogging community:
"On Tuesday, November 15 from 7-9 p.m we’re having a Triangle Blogger’s Bash at Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District. The event will include a walking tour of WUNC’s new studios, a catered reception, talking about podcasting, and drinks at Tyler’s Speakeasy next door. Everyone is invited. Come to learn about blogging, podcasting, and meet your neighbors who have those cool blogs you read all the time."
Read it: Triangle Blogger’s Bash, Durham, November 15
(Found on:Audio Activism.)
Reporters Without Borders has today released a wonderful handbook of international blogging. The 84-page guide includes sections that discuss the basics of blogs and blogging terminology, and it moves quickly into a serious how-to guide for blogging anonymously and blogging successfully. This is a first for the international blogging community, and I am certain that it will receive an extremely warm welcome.
The guide begins with general discussion of the role of blogs and basic blogging terminology. This is hardly revolutionary coverage, but the writing is solid, with sections from very reputable sources in the international online media scene.
There is also a good section on choosing the right blogging platform, getting things setup to make the search engines happy, and a lot of serious advice on "making your blog shine."
There are a few problems in the text, notably the failure to mention several key blogging platforms available for international use. (They mention MSN but not Typepad??) Also, I think there is not adequate description of the differences between a hosted blog service (Like Blogger) and a blogging platform that you have to install on your server (Like Movable Type.)
But by far the most inspiring part of the handbook (an it is as a whole quite inspiring) is it's selection of personal accounts from "famous" international bloggers, including selections from a female blogger in China, a writer in Iran, a wonderfully disaffected journalist in the U.S., and a Bahranian blogger who prides himself on "breaking the government's news monopoly."
Keeping with the audience-first nature of blogs, everything is eminently readable, with spunky illustration by Nuit de Chine.
This is not a handbook for making money with your blog; it's a serious look at the tools that are available for people who are otherwise not encouraged to communicate. It is for newsmakers without news outlets and people making news who don't make headlines.
That's a refreshing break from the wealth of blogging how-tos in the developed world. Those documents may be useful, but they don't have the kind of detail that you find here for really getting a blog started in China, Nepal, Iran, etc. In this way, the "How to Blog Anonymously" chapter by Ethan Zuckerman must be considered the most important single part of the document. As an online community, there is nothing stopping us from perfecting and distributing tools for subverting government chokeholds on IP addresses.
I am very excited by the guerrilla-free-speech innovation documented here.
As Rebbecca MacKinnon has written, "Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure. Only they provide independent news, at the risk of displeasing the government and sometimes courting arrest."
This handbook is groundbreaking both symbolically and technically, and I think it safe to say that it will evolve to address it's very few shortcomings. Hopefully it will be re-released regularly, with updates of all the wonderful things that are going on in the blogosphere, new home of the free international press.
Your dear author recently posted about the ambivalence and misunderstanding that abounds with regard to the concept of RSS. Based on this weeks hilarious (in a laughing-at-you, not-with-you way) usability survey of blogging from Catalyst Group Design, blogging (yes, the entire concept) is about a mainstream as the Kabbalah.
The people they interviewed (about 25 of them) were smart folks in a wealthy, highly industrialized country. They used the internet all the time. But when they came to a normal blog, they were stumped. They asked: What kind of a website is this? What are these categories? Are they organized chronologically?
These are not stupid questions — they just sound stupid to folks who work with blog publishing software.
The point is this, geeks: people don't understand what blogs are. They don't know how to use them effectively and, often, they don't know how to read them. They certainly don't know how to subscribe to them via RSS.
If you are a blogger, this may be a difficult concept for you to accept. It was for me.
But ask around. Ask your friends who aren't geeks. Ask the people at work. I'll bet you a dollar they don't know what a blog is. I'll bet five they don't read them, and I'll bet you ten they would be intimidated as hell by the idea of creating their own. (And if I lose that, I'll bet $50 that, once they start it, they won't keep up with it.)
For now, we (bloggers) need to recognize that our readership is other bloggers. Don't get depressed: that's a pretty decent concept, mate. We can have our little blogger community and create positive change among ourselves. But clearly, we'll have to move on to reach other users ... like real people.
So this technical-sounding "usability study" of blogs means a great deal for people trying to create change with online publishing. Here are a few tips that I have tried to follow here:
For one: If you are a blogger, design down your site. I think that simplicity has an inherent currency in all forms of learning — and all publications are deigned to teach. Consider that your blog, as a text-based medium, would do better to take influences from the world of books (remember those?) than cable TV.
For two: Write for real people, not just geeks. Surely, there is a place for geeky forums, but if your online work is meant to be relevant for people with real lives (present readership excluded), try to avoid terms like trackback and ping, which have a clinically-proven tendency to cause impotence and sleep apnea.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has just released a great "Legal Guide For Bloggers," which goes into some of the concepts that you might not be familiar with.
If your organization is getting into blogging as a way to advocate your cause (and give honest PR, retain donors, keep employees up-to-date, keep volunteers enthused etc. ...), this is something to keep around the office, preferably near the water cooler, coffee pot or toilet, where it might actually get read.
Those of us who did the journalism school thing can tell you: media law ain't that much fun. But it is good to know, for example, that if you quote someone saying something slanderous, you can be legally tried for libel, which is, in fact, worse. (Libel is printed, slander spoken.)
As they are quick to point out: "None of this should stop you from blogging. Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy ..." (I would also point out that it is a good thing to have in a poorly functioning democracy.)
"Whether you're a newly minted blogger or a relative old-timer, you've been seeing more and more stories pop up every day about bloggers getting in trouble for what they post. ... The difference between you and the reporter at your local newspaper is that in many cases, you may not have the benefit of training or resources to help you determine whether what you're doing is legal. And on top of that, sometimes knowing the law doesn't help - in many cases it was written for traditional journalists, and the courts haven't yet decided how it applies to bloggers."
Get it: EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers
Here's a neat article on scholarly blogs from 2003 in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It's outdated but excellent, framing the issue in real-world concerns of "academic posturing" vs. "realtime idea exchanges."
Here's what I mean:
"In their skeptical moments, academic bloggers worry that the medium smells faddish, ephemeral. But they also make a strong case for blogging's virtues, the foremost of which is freedom of tone. Blog entries can range from three-word bursts of sarcasm to carefully honed 5,000-word treatises. The sweet spot lies somewhere in between, where scholars tackle serious questions in a loose-limbed, vernacular mode." Read the article.
Mission-Driven nonprofits have, I think, the most to gain from blogging than any other organization or type of individual. If your organization has a site, I think you really should have a blog. There are a number of clear reasons. Seriously.
The reasons to maintain a blog are all about education — which is at the center of most nonprofits' agendas. How many ways can you raise awareness and make changes in people's lives? Blogs offer a number of advantages over newspapers, magazines and flyers as mediums: They are free to print, they are easy to update and they are easily targeted to your base of stakeholders.
Here's an extract from an article published for a 2004 seminar on blogging and Public Relations:
"In the past, you've most likely depended on good relations with traditional media, and some combination of website, e-mail, and printed or electronic publications. Printed magazines and newsletters are expensive to produce, and e-mailed items run the risk of being neither received nor read. A website by itself can't always be updated as quickly as you'd like, and none of these provide the immediacy or the conversational attributes of a blog." Read the article.
Yes, they are certainly cheaper than print — you already have the web space and need only pay for the time it takes to post. If you already have regular emails that you are sending out to a list of subscribers, then you already have the content. By posting them to the web, you can memorialize your communication, keeping your activities transparent and engaging others.
By posting something to the web you are making it public and, even if it is only your staff reading it at first, this can really have a strong mobilizing effect on your organization.
Blogs can also help you build your fundraising mission, but, more importantly, they can also become part of your mission — you can contribute directly to your goals by keeping a record of your creative, collaborative thoughts on the current state of things.
A single-subject blog will help push your organization's site to the top of the Google results, because search engines love pages that are frequently updated. People will begin to find your page more if you put more information on it — and they will be people who are already interested in your subject.
Blogs are truly flexible tools: you can set up multiple blogs to serve multiple purposes. Most notable, you can have a private, group blog for internal communication and a public blog (perhaps maintained by one person) on your website.
Blogs help organize the web: Do you have a ever-expanding folder full of favorites that would be great to share with others concerned about your mission? Post them as you find them (with little reviews to clue people in).
Examples of other nonprofit blogs:
http://www.citizensleague.net/ "The Citizens League promotes the public interest in Minnesota by involving citizens in identifying and framing critical public policy choices, forging recommendations and advocating their adoption."http://community.oceana.org/ "Organizes campaigns dedicated to restoring and protecting the world's oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education.
There are some very sophisticated techniques emerging into the semi-mainstream this year. You may not have noticed, and you may not care. But if you can get the hang of it managing the blogosphere, there's a lot to be learned.
Rediscover your interests and your profession with the new tools of online networking: Blogs, tags and syndication.
Even if you don't have a blog and don't want to publish content, this stuff is for you. ONE/Northwest has a good tutorial on a couple of the most important tools.
Are you drowning in email that you don't have time to read? And do you also feel a gnawing sense that you're missing out on critical information? Welcome to the paradox of the "information age." While we can't help you stop the world from turning, in this article we'll introduce you to Bloglines and del.icio.us, two exciting new tools that can help you tame your inbox, find relevant information that you're missing, and share it more effectively with your colleagues and allies.
Check it out: Environmental technology, services, software for Northwest conservation groups - ONE/Northwest