Anything you always wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask?

October 27th, 2008 Karine Joly 14 Comments

I’m currently wrapping up putting together my slides and handouts for the following 4-hour workshop I’ll give at the AMA Symposium for Higher Education on November 16, 2008:

Blogging Boot Camp: How to Start and Develop a Successful Blog

Since I would have never been asked to present this workshop without this blog, I thought it might be a good idea to invite your input about its content.

Hey, you’re the readers and some of you are also bloggers!

So, here are my questions to you:
Is there anything you’d like to know about blogging in a higher ed setting?
or, if you’re a blogger yourself, is there anything you wish you had known before starting your blog?

Please post your reply in the comments (I’ve finally added a subscribe-to-comments plugin, but haven’t had a chance to test it yet, so let me know if it doesn’t work)

14 Responses

  1. Karlyn says:

    I wish I had known to completely separate my blog from my institution. Don’t give your employers any ability to exert any control over what you write. Pay for your own hosting. Make sure you have a disclaimer. Don’t use their data – find data from the public domain to make your point. It may seem like an overly cautious approach but its the smart way to go.

  2. Karlyn’s points are right on target.

    I wish I’d researched commercial blogging services more thoroughly. I use Typepad, which basically works, but which is deficient in many ways (especially technical support). I might have chosen a different platform.

    I also advise purchasing a domain name and using it. To me this adds a valuable modicum of professionalism. Even if you use Blogger (which is free), you can point it to a domain name you own. Of course, merely having your blog on its own domain doesn’t make it professional. That’s up to you.

    Lastly, bloggers all seem to taper off the frequency of their posts (most of them tapering to zero). Start conservatively with the goal of INCREASING your frequency. This way, if you are unable to post frequently you’ll at least be able to maintain a modest level of activity – a level to which your readers (if you have any) will become accustomed.

    Oh yeah. Always remember: “Links are free.” Use ’em.

  3. Karine Joly says:

    Great tips so far.

    Thanks, Karlyn and Andy!

    Now, about the frequency of posts, you’re right, Andy. It seems that most bloggers will post like there were no tomorrow at the beginning and then less and less. I guess it all comes down to getting some content up to establish credibility (and for SEO purposes, which will draw traffic) for the first part and to busy lives mixed with communication overload for the second.

    In a conversation I had with Mark Greenfield yesterday, we noticed that the conversation has moved from many places – including from what used to be a very active email listserv: the uwebd email list.

    And, apparently, it has nothing to do with the fact that email is dead as 81% of web professionals indicate email as one of their favorite channels to exchange/receive professional information in the survey we ran lately.

    Is Twitter killing blogs slowly? This has been a meme recently. I hope it doesn’t as both channels accomplish different things. What remains the great power of blogs is the ability to generate searchable content with some context. Twitter doesn’t do it, and I’m not sure it will ever.

  4. […] for Higher Education next month, and as part of her prep work for that workshop, she’s looking for some insight from her fellow higher ed bloggers (as well as her non-blogging readers). I thought I’d help […]

  5. Karlyn and Andy both make good points about blogging as individuals — as higher ed experts who are not blogging as part of their “day jobs,” so to speak. I concur with their points.

    But you’re likely to have folks in your audience who want to know how to post and manage an institutional blog. That’s something we’ve been doing at Missouri S&T for a while now. If you’re interested in starting a blog that is directly associated with your institution, you need to:

    First, assess the campus culture and see if there would be support for it. If the campus communications function is highly centralized and used to a command-and-control, top-down hierarchy, blogging may not be for your institution.

    As part of that assessment, consider the willingness of you or your staff to coordinate, manage and update a blog. Are your writers focused on the more traditional inverted-pyramid style of writing? Moving to a more conversational approach can be a stretch. At the same time, it can be invigorating and can give writers a chance to do something a bit less structured and more creative.

    If the campus culture is amenable to blogging, then you’ll need to make your case for a blog with the campus leadership. This begins with first doing your homework. Anticipate objections to blogging. Research blogging policies. (That is something I wish we’d done before diving into blogging, but we’ve managed so far to keep things informal and mostly under our department’s control.) Are you considering student bloggers? Think about the ramifications there.

    Then, get your boss on board. If your boss is not on board and is not championing the cause, then it won’t work. You’re going to get pushback from people who don’t understand the open-source, loosey-goosey structure of the blogging community — especially if you’re using the blog to allow for the free exchange of ideas, as we did with Name Change Conversations during our name change transition.

    Also, make sure you’ve got the support of the IT department — especially if you’re looking at a third-party solution and IT and your campus is used to keeping your web platforms and tools in-house.

    A word about professionalism. Andy makes a good point. Professionalism is about your approach. But what constitutes professionalism? The literary style of the blogosphere is more relaxed than we may be accustomed to. Can you be both conversational and professional in your approach to blogging? I think so. Karlyn, Andy and Karine all exemplify the conversational/professional approach.

  6. Karine Joly says:

    That’s a whole blog post you’ve just written here, Andy ;-)

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience as an institutional blogger.

  7. LOL. Yeah, about halfway through that “comment,” I thought to myself: This would make a darn good blog post. Oh well. Maybe I’ll refine and revise it for an upcoming post on my personal blog.

    Good luck at AMA!

  8. The exchange about the role of Twitter (so-called “microblogging”) and about Andrew Careaga’s comment being as long as a blog posting both raise an interesting topic: how long should a blog posting be? I scanned some blogs in higher ed, in news media and in sports to see what word count appealed to me. I posted 2x/week for the first year, and now usually 1x/week and for me 400 to 500 words is the sweet spot.

    Different purpose, different frequency, available time, etc all will influence others’ decisions, but I advise starting out brief (<400 words). You won’t lose people who prefer shorter posts, and the occasional longer posting will seem like a magnum opus to regular readers!

    If you have too much to fit into a briefer posting, split it and label the initial installment “Part I” – then post the rest in your next posting and call it “Part II.” This makes you seem organized and suggests that you plan your blog ahead of time, as opposed to just tearing off a rant whenever you’re in a bad mood.

    OK, I’m approaching blog posting length here….Bye.

  9. Karine Joly says:

    Another great point, Andy.

  10. Tom Williams says:

    A common problem we see in higher ed blog programs is that the implementers only look at the technology and not the humanity. I know of a large University in Ohio that is shutting down its blog program due to this disconnect. Speaking mostly here about student blogging programs – it is important to get in front of the biggest issues, namely timely postings and good content. You need a system in place to address these two human criteria as undergrads are notorious for not having time to post and not having the writing skills to create interesting, engaging content. Couple these challenges with all the internal challenges Andy Careaga spoke about above, and it is critical you have a solid executable strategy. It’s not a slam-dunk by any measure.

    Good luck with the blog instruction in Chicago, Karine. I will be at the AMA conf with a member of my team and hope to finally meet you.

  11. Karine Joly says:

    Student blogging programs are challenging, but several institutions have mastered this art.

    Looking forward to meeting you at AMA. Come say “hello” if you see me in the hallways.

  12. Tim says:

    This has been very helpful, and I’m looking forward to hearing more on this topic. I’m currently assisting our university Office of International Education in setting up a prototype, tips and guidelines for students studying and blogging abroad.

    You can take a look at what I’m putting together at I plan on writing the guidelines in blog format to help get students started. Input is VERY welcome.

  13. […] For the past few days I’ve been busy wrapping up my presentation for the marathon 4-hour workshop I’ll give this Sunday at the AMA Symposium for Higher Education. […]

  14. […] I’m scheduled to present a workshop about blogging tomorrow afternoon, Karlyn will give a presentation on integrated email marketing on Monday […]

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