Saturday, September 03, 2011

Charm School for Bloggers

Media Tools blog assignment #2 was to find some blogging best practices/etiquette -- and I've gone ahead and broken one of the best "rules" I found already in this sentence.

Unless you're now intrigued to find out what I'm on about... are you?


Who's still reading?

Well, anyway, echoditto has a nice list of suggestions, the second of which is:

Engage from the beginning. Blog readers generally pay attention to the title and the first two paragraphs of any given post, and then decide whether to read the rest. This means your title, and your first two paragraphs are your chance to entice them to read the rest of the post. Humorous, playful, and even whimsical titles are OK because they catch readers' attention. Sometimes, if it concerns a particularly hot news item, a straightforward title will do the same. Posts with compelling titles get read more often, and get more comments.

In the first two paragraphs, try to give the reader an idea of what you're talking about, what you think about the subject, and — towards the end of the second paragraph — a teaser to get them to read more.

This is obviously why my blog is named "toilet training a furry cat with frictionless paws". Not really. Actually, that is why I went and changed the title of this particular post from whatever boring version of "blog assignment #2" it was to my incredibly creative "Charm School"...

Seriously though, if I actually wanted to ensure that people were consistently reading this blog, and perhaps even gaining something from it, I'd be sure to make an effort to consistently be creative with my titles and try to draw you, the reader, in. As it stands, this is more like a public-online-diary that I established to record my adventures (for me) and take care of that pesky "communicate with people about stuff" thing that I prefer to do via handwritten letter, but really that just takes far too long to be able to communicate everything to everyone so I do this instead. offers helpful, and (from my perspective) humorous, advice on writing blog titles. It seems to me that point number 2, avoid "bait and switch", comes somewhat out of left field. I'm not sure what blogger wants to lure someone in to reading their own personal opinions and commentary on, say... apples, only to find out somewhere in the first paragraph that they have in fact been reading about, heaven forbid... oranges!!! Unacceptable.

Image from, you can still get the T-shirt! (This ties in nicely with item #2 from My Beak Social Media's lauraleewalker although this particular image really is quite irrelevant to the content of this post. It is cute though.)

Actually, strolling around campus lately I've found quite a bit of "bait and switch", when I first started writing this I naively thought, "why would anyone bother?", then I got schooled. By school. I got drawn into a "join our bible cult" table because they had stacks of pizza boxes and I thought they were selling pizza and I was hungry so I wandered over there. Boy, was I ever disappointed. I promise I won't do that to you readers ever. Except with my blog title. I probably will not be discussing toilet training cats ever on here. But there will be lots of hiking and stuff.

Along the aforementioned line of drawing readers in is item #4 from My Beak Social Media's lauraleewalker:

Use bullets, italics, and bold font. This makes for an easier read. Using bold font allows the reader to quickly scan your post.

Of course you'll have already noted that I instead make the font smaller, and a weird colour, and spell words Canadian-ly. I do believe that when I make fonts smaller it draws your attention in, though admittedly, it's more of the "squint and lean forward" attention than the "wow, that's super awesome and I want to read more of it" attention. I should probably work on that.

On a more serious note, there is something else that I feel is definitely worth discussing in terms of blogging best practices, and that is ethics. describes some of these as well (note how I've referenced my sources by providing links directly to them in my text? That's part of it). Having taught for several years now, and having seen some epically bad cases of plagiarism, source citing is definitely of importance, even if you're "just blogging". Let's say I was to use blogging as a mode for assignments for my students instead of turning in super cool meganeura papers, I would still require that the sources from which their information was obtained be referenced! In fact, in the same class as the meganeura report, I had a student who created a facebook profile for Troy Pliocene, the mastodon with an attitude, and she had made an effort to cite her sources within Troy's notes. Brava.

Meanwhile, here I am stating this and while I went ahead and linked to woot for the apples/oranges T shirt image, I sure didn't ask their permission to use it first. Bad blogger.

web addresses for blog references:


Shawn said...

Spelling words a la Canadiana is completely acceptable...particularly if you are a Canadian.

Missy said...

I much prefer to spell colour like so. Color is so boring.