In a previous blog post we have looked at Top Ten Tips on Social Media platforms, but it became clear, very quickly, that issues surrounded blogging needed a post of its own. So, here it is! As ever, we invite comments, additions, suggestions. Please share your own experiences!
1. Identify your audience. This needs a bit of thinking about, as knowing WHO you are writing for will determine both HOW you write and WHAT you are writing about.
2. Choose the right software. Have a look around, and you’ll be able to find quite a few software providers who offer not just free software, but who will also host the blog for free. This normally means that published blogs will carry advertising, but the upside is that these blog providers offer a range of templates. This blog is hosted by WordPress; another free blogging software provider is Blogspot. For Blogspot, you will need a Google account, but I would recommend you look at various blogs hosted by either wordpress or blogspot to get a sense of what is possible. Bloglovin is another programme you could turn to, with a very distinctive look of its own. So, have a look around- plenty of options out there, and have a play. Different providers have different strengths and weaknesses in distinctive areas, all of these programmes feel different, so try them out to see which one works best for you.
3. Learn by following other blogs. Certainly, once you see what somebody else has down with a blog ( menu structure, tags, images etc), you can then try and copy those effects. If somebody else has done it, the technology allows it, so have a play around with the settings and see whether you can achieve that effect. It is certainly worth having a loo at what you like about other blogs before you start your own, so look at number of columns, the way the headings are displayed, how do images look, that sort of thing. And if you like the look of a particular blog, make a note of what theme they are using. Most of the wordpress and blogger-hosted blogs carry some form of advertising, and you can generally get the name of a blog theme by scrolling to the bottom of the page (and in case you are wondering, nottsteachingbuzz is a wordpress blog using the ‘Expound’ theme!)
4. Dont be afraid of the technology. Experiment. The rule is simple: only do what you are comfortable with! The templates provided online are configured in such a way that very little technical knowledge will allow you to produce a decent blog.
5. Find your voice. Is your blog a very chatty blog? Are you trying to write in first person? You might find that your voice changes as you develop a bit more confidence and practice; I always imagine I am talking in the context of an informal workshop situation, and for me, using first person narrative is important as I am trying to say that IU am expressing my own opinion, but I would very much apprwciate your- the reader’s- feedback. Experiment.
6. Make the technology work for you. I am first and foremost an art historian, and any technical skills I have are skills I have picked up along the way. While I am not a technophobe, I will give up on technology if it does not work for me on a couple of attempts. What matters to me is the content of the blog more than its look. Rule of thumb for me is- would I want to read this myself? Yes? Then its good.
7. Be courteous. A blog is the creative and intellectual property of whoever wrote it, and while most bloggers are very happy for you to share their posts, use their material, refer to discussions, you need to acknowledge the origin of your material and make proper reference to your source.
8. Images are nice- but not all images are copyright free. Images are the bread and butter of an art historian’s trade, and, I imagine, are key teaching and research materials in science subjects too (tables, diagrams, schematics etc). But even more so than with text, images are covered by copyright, so think about the images you are using. Normally, any images you take yourself are fine (as the photographer, you hold the copyright for them) , always provided of course that you are not taking photographs of objects that are in themselves subject to copyright ( for example, you should not take images inside contemporary art installations, and photographing conference slides and publishing them is also not a good idea!). Images for blogs should be copyright-free, and if you use the web to source images, make sure the images are in the public domain. It is becoming increasingly common for cultural institutions such as, for example, the Getty Institute, to make their images freely available, so a little bit of searching will take you a long way. A good starting point is here– which is the source of the image enclosed below:
<div style=”background-color:#fff;display:inline-block;font-family:’Helvetica Neue’,Arial,sans-serif;color:#a7a7a7;font-size:11px;”>
<p style=”margin:0;”></p><div style=”padding:0;margin:-12px 0 4px 10px;text-align:left;”><a href=”http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/200241871-001″ target=”_blank” style=”color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;”>#200241871-001</a> / <a href=”http://www.gettyimages.com” target=”_blank” style=”color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;”>gettyimages.com</a></div></div>
The image appears ready with its own caption, its source is acknowledged, and you can use it in accordance with the conditions the copyright owner asks you to adhere to.Another good guide is Robinson Meyer’s piece published in The Atlantic, but as more collections become available, its worth having a look every so often.
9. Blogs and Teaching. There are some really interesting examples of best teaching practice using blogs out there. One example, by Nottingham’s Dr Ayla Lepine, developed an online exhibition. Victorian Beauty, if you want to cut to the bone, is really based on students writing up case studies- something they do all the time in some disciplines- but by publishing them online and getting students a chance to see their work and react to that work, the blog gives a different dynamic to otherwise quite sttaic pieces of writing. Also, students write no longer just for the ‘assessor’ with a piece of assessment that then gets buried in second marking and quality assurance procvedures, but the piece is there to draw a reaction. Another example of this approach, of getting students to reflect, is used here, on a blog originally set up to support a conference,but with an afterlife of its own. BCUR14Nottingham published reflective writing by students, with student volunteers for the conference discussing the skills they have gained through their participation in the project. Victorian Beauty uses a blog to support curricular activities, while BCUR14Nottingham brings together an aspect of students’ extracurricular activities.
10. Blogging is fun. Do you need another reason? Try it!