WordCamp Richmond: Strategery!

presenter: Bradley Robb

“A couple of tips for improving your blog’s readership and like 26 pictures of kittens”

A comprehensive digital strategy is what you are going to use when you build anything online. When you start a blog, you are committing yourself to putting out content forever.

The field of dreams fallacy: just because you blog it doesn’t mean anyone will read it. Knowing your visitors means knowing your visitor types. Referral traffic is your goal. Blog readership is not a zero-sum game; your fellow bloggers are your peers.

Quantitative analysis like page ranks compares apples to apples. But if you want to compare apples to oranges, you need to look at different things. Post frequency will increase popularity, particularly for those who do not read via RSS. Comment frequency is an indicator of post frequency. You also want to pay attention to whether the commenters are responding to the post or responding to each other (i.e. creating a community).

Amass, prioritize, track, repeat: Find all of the people who are talking about your niche in a full-time manner. Evaluate your own blog, then develop a rubric to compare your site to peers. Create a list of blogs where you’d like to guest post. Track your successes and failures – Robb suggests using a spreadsheet (blogs tracked, comments, linkbacks, etc.). Keep adding to your amassed list, keep evaluating your standing, and keep tracking.

You need to be reading the blogs in your community, but that can take a lot of time. Following their Twitter feeds might be faster. And if you’re not using RSS, you should be.

“Commenting on blogs is like working a room at a party with one major exception: nobody knows if you’re wearing pants.”

Make your comment relevant, short, interesting, but don’t steal the show. Make sure you put your blog anchor page in the URL field of the comment form. You want people to track back to your blog, right? If there is an option to track the comments, do it. It’s okay to disagree, but be intelligent about it. Be yourself, but better (and sign with your name, not your blog/book/etc.). Count to ten before you hit send, not just for keeping a cool head, but also for correcting grammatical errors.

Guest posting: write the post before you pitch it. It indicates that you understand the blog and it’s content, and that you can write. Plus, they won’t be waiting on you for a deadline.

Measure twice, cut once: If your commenting strategy isn’t working, then figure out how to change it up. Are you getting traffic? Are your comments being responded to?

Give them something to talk about. If you’re doing all this strategy, make sure you have something worth reading.

Questions:

Recommended features & widgets? Robb doesn’t use many widgets. Trackbacks is a big backend feature. Disqus can aggregate reactions, which you can publish with the post.

What are easy ways to get people to comment on your blog? There are several methods. One is to be wrong, because the internet will tell you that you’re wrong, and that can drive comment traffic. Another is to publish a list.

How do you know what to write about? By following the niche/industry, you can get a feel for hot topics and trends.

Do you have any specific strategies for using Facebook for publicizing your blog? Robb hates Facebook and it’s personal data-stealing soul. He recommends the same strategy as Twitter: for every ten posts about something else, post one promoting your blog.

What about communities like Digg or Reddit? Unless you hit the front page, you don’t really get enough traffic to warrant the time.

How many ads are too many? Depends on how big of a boat you want. If you build your theme to incorporate ads smartly, you don’t need as many of them to be successful with them. In print journalism, the page is designed for the ads with the news filling the rest.

na-blog-wri-mo?

Recently, I went digging through the archives of this blog to locate something I knew had to be there. I didn’t find it, and I suspect that has to do with things getting lost in the conversion from MovableType to WordPress. *sigh*

Anyway, I ended up reading some of the old link round-up posts I made back in the infancy of this blog, and it got me thinking about how much my approach has changed over time. For link blogging, I’ve started using a mix of Delicious bookmarks and Google Reader shared items, and for general “look at this crazy stuff” kinds of things, I use Twitter, FriendFeed, or Facebook.

What’s left for the blog? Well, short reflective pieces like this, for one. And, of course, there’s the conference session summaries and the “what I wrote for Blogcritics” round-ups. Other than that, I am finding that I have things that I want to write about, but I don’t have the time or energy to form them into anything worthy of public consumption.

Honestly, though, the main reason is that I’ve become rather lazy about the care and feeding of this blog. So, for the rest of this month, I’m going to try to write something here at least a few times each week.

thing 17: UR wikis

At my library, we have a couple of wikis set up. One is basically a transfer of our main service desk manual from paper to online, and the other is Boatipedia, our FAQ. I agree with Carol in that the format works well for our manual, and I also agree with her that I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a FAQ in wiki format, unless the intent is more for the ease of allowing many authorized users to edit it. As Carol puts it, “we really don’t want anyone to be able to go in and change content — do we?”

As for other uses for an internal wiki… I could see myself using a wiki to organize information about our electronic resources, licenses, and contacts. Being able to search across pages to find information and the ability to have input from each of the individuals involved in the process would both be pluses for the format over more traditional paper files and email archives. However, we have paid for a tool specifically designed to do that, which also interfaces with the public side of linking users to the resources, so it wouldn’t make sense to use a wiki instead of or in addition to that tool.

Learning 2008 Keynote: Networked Academic Conversations and the Liberal Arts

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

Presenter: Ruben R. Puentedura

The creation of knowledge through conversation is the core of liberal arts education.

According to research from the past 5-10 years, blended learning (face-to-face + online) is becoming more relevant and necessary on residential campuses. These studies show that truly blended courses where the face-to-face and online components are comparable in magnitude will fix some of the problems with both face-to-face and online courses.

Face-to-face learning is good for:

  • establishing a local presence
  • discursive task definition
  • generation of ideas

Online learning is good for:

  • sustaining social presence
  • discursive task execution
  • evaluation & development of ideas

[side note: I am seeing truth in the above thanks to online social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and the Library Society of the World, which are responsible for both sustaining and growing the connections I make at conferences.]

Prior to the development of the tools and technology that led to Web 2.0, we did not have the ability to see bi-directional conversations on the Web. Web 2.0 has re-defined the Web as a platform for small pieces, loosely joined. The Web 2.0 is the architecture of participating, with remixable data sources and data transformations, harnessing collective intelligence.

Conversations as continuous partial attention
Twitter is both asynchronous and synchronous at the same time. Conversations can be both instantaneous and over time, and there are no expectations that you will read every single update from everyone you follow.

Conversations surrounding production/consumption
Flickr has taken the static image on a website and enhanced it with conversational elements like comments, groupings, tags, and notes on photos. Partially because the content is self-produced, this has created a supportive community and a culture of intolerance for troll-like behavior. In contrast, YouTube, which offers similar features for moving images, is filled with content not created by the sharer, and the community is unfriendly compared to Flickr.

Ustream contains user-generated live streaming video, and should have a culture of users similar to Flickr; however, it appears to lean more towards the YouTube culture. Swivel is a site for sharing data and creating visualizations from that data, and it straddles the line between a supportive culture and one that is prone to troll-like behavior.

All of this is to say that if you choose to use these tools in your classroom, you need to be aware of the baggage that comes with them.

Conversations mapping the terrain
del.icio.us is a social bookmarking service that can be an information discovery tool as well as a conversation. The process of adding a new bookmark tells you something about the URL by showing how others have added it (leaning on the expertise of other). The network of users and tags can show connections outside of defined groups.

Conversations based on shared creation
Most blogs include comment functionality which allows readers to participate on equal footing. Trackbacks show links from other locations, branching out the conversation beyond the boundaries of the solitary blog. The blog has also cause the rediscovery of forms of discourse such as the exploratory essay, epistolary conversation, and public scholarly societies (scholarly societies that are visible and present in the public eye as authorities on subjects).

Wikis provide a forum for discussion with a historical archive of past conversations. Through the interaction between scholars and non-scholars on wikis such as Wikipedia, the articles become better, more comprehensible explorations of topics. A student project using wikis could be one in which they create a scholarly essay that for a topic lacking such on Wikipedia and submit it, thus gaining the experience of creating scholarship in the public eye and contributing to the greater good of the whole.

SIMILE Timeline is another tool for creating content relevant to a course that provides a forum for discussion.

Conversations about conversations
Ning allows you to create a social network with tools like those on MySpace or Facebook but without the culture and baggage. You can do similar things in traditional academic tools such as course management software, but Ning is more attractive and functional.

What’s next? Puentedura suggests the SAMR model. As we move from substitution to augmentation to modification to redefinition in the way we use technology and tools in the classroom, we move from basic enhancement with little buy-in or value to a complete transformation of the learning process that is a true academic conversation between the student and the professor.

Resources:
The Horizon Report
ELI: 7 Things You Should Know About…
50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story

since when did this become a column?

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.

I started to respond to Michelle’s post in her comments section, but then it got too long to be a comment, so I’m posting it here.

I attended a session at NASIG entitled “Column People: What’s their Future in a World of Blogs? The Role of Columnists in Academic Journals.” I erroneously thought it might be an interesting discussion of blogs in scholarly communication, but it turned out to be a “bloggers are hurting our profession!” diatribe. A poorly organized and presented one, at that.

At one point, the presenter pulled a quote out of a blog that seemed to lean more on the cat-blog side of blogging. Although I didn’t recognize the source, I thought it was a rather weak point in an already weak presentation. Not only that, but upon reading the full context, the blog post seems to be more substantial than the presenter would have us believe.

The conversation would have been better served if he had focused on the positive aspects of blogs and the relationship they have to columns. Some of the unwashed actually have pretty good self-editing skills, in addition to having useful things to say.

In the Q&A part of the session, I posed the question of “why worry?” — blogs and columns can continue to co-exist, and as per usual, readers will be drawn to what interests them. Bashing blogs and bloggers will not result in more edited columns in academic journals. They’re serving different purposes and users. It’d be like saying that we should stop using toothpaste because shampoo is an effective personal hygiene tool.

I also noted that the blog medium is just a tool, and it can lend itself to peer and editorial review. For example, I can write whatever I want here, but if it’s crap, at least one of my peers will correct me. There are also collaborative blogs that have evolved to become online magazines with editorial staff, such as Blogcritics.

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.