Om Malik’s advice on writing good blog posts

Om Malik is comfortably one of my favourite writers and he has published advice on writing good blog posts which he used to send to new writers at GigaOm. His post is titled “How to write a good blog post”:

How to write a good blog post 

When I think about bloggers/writers who I admire, Om Malik is in my top 5 or 6 writers and I love his article. I highlighted so much of his article for my own reference purposes but two of the sentences that really stand out for me are these two:

So the trick is to write posts that are more informed, more insightful, and more respectful of the readers. In my opinion, you are informed not just by talking to people but by being able to take the time to learn about things you like to write about.

These aren’t the only gems, of course. Orli Yakuel pointed out another wonderful quote on Facebook:

If you are a blogger/writer and you are passionate about your writing, read Malik’s post. Better yet, subscribe to his blog or follow him on Twitter.

Update (2016-03-29): I may have referred to this before but this January 2016 piece by Malik is also worth reading:

How to keep writing when nobody gives a shit?

Photo credit: Om Malik by Christopher Michel, licensed CC BY 2.0

The Web is still important for writing

I clicked on a link to a 2014 post by Matt Mullenweg titled “Why the Web Still Matters for Writing” after I scanned through another recent post and I thought I’d reshare it here:

Why the Web Still Matters for Writing

I especially like this quote:

But the web is like water: it fills in all the gaps between things like gaming and social with exactly what any one particular user wants. And while we all might have a use for Facebook – simply because everyone is there – we all have different things that interest us when it comes to reading.

I have this recurring thought that the Web is a wonderful platform for writing and publishing and, if we weren’t all so caught up in various models of control, we may be more open to publishing more stuff to the Web, natively. It just makes so much sense to me as an open and flexible platform (and one of the motivations for my newest project). It’s also why I love the idea of authors publishing books online as well as in the usual digital and print formats.

A great example of an author who has done this (and possibly for similar reasons) is Jeff Jarvis who decided to publish his latest book, Geeks Bearing Gifts, on Medium in stages.

While I’m on this topic, here is another gem I found on Mullenweg’s blog titled “On Syndication and Rolling Your Own“. It goes all the way back to 2003, those early days of blogging:

On Syndication and Rolling Your Own

Remember that this was before Facebook, Twitter and much of the social Web we have today. It was also a couple months before WordPress was first released.

Image credit: Foundry from Pixabay, released under a CC0 Dedication

Is Medium just a RSS reader?

medium-rss-iftttThe general consensus on Medium seems to be that Medium is a publishing platform, essentially. Rian van der Merwe has a different take on Medium which he explains in his post “Medium as RSS reader”:

But then it dawned on me… Indie publishers have been thinking about Medium all wrong. We’ve been thinking about Medium as a thing that eats all the world’s content with zero regard for publishers. But Medium is, in fact, nothing more than a next-generation RSS reader.

It is an interesting idea and I’m not sure I agree or would want Medium to become a fancy RSS reader. That said, his IFTTT recipe for automatically publishing his blog posts to Medium offers an alternative to the buggy Medium plugin for WordPress which I stopped using on my site.

View profile at Medium.com

Looking at Rian’s Medium profile, the IFTTT recipe seems to be working pretty well although I’m curious whether Rian needs to do any post-publication editing to fix formatting issues? I usually have to delete extra line spaces and fix quotes when I import my blog posts into Medium. If not, this is a good option for, at the very least, republishing blog posts to Medium.

Options for sharing video outside YouTube and Vimeo

I uploaded a video as part of a short post earlier this week and I noticed that it didn’t display particularly well in the post. I could have shared to YouTube first and embedded the video but thought I’d see what a direct upload would do. Turns out, not much. 

Surely it is possible to embed videos like you can images and have them render as playable videos in blog posts? Doesn’t HTML 5 have a video tag that works in all the major browsers?

WordPress has its VideoPress player but it’s a paid feature. Shouldn’t this capability be more freely accessible? What are the options?

Blogging for 10 years and still going

This blog began its life under a different domain on 6 December 2004. It has survived in one form or another until now, thanks and no thanks to me. I started my blog after tinkering with blogging back in the primordial days of the social Web when blogging was the New Thing, after interactive fora. Keeping a blog alive for 10 years feels like an achievement. Having 3 527 blog posts under my metaphorical belt (not counting this one) feels like I have made a meaningful contribution towards documenting my life and the things that interest me. It is something worth commemorating.

I’ve created multiple blogs, merged them into this one, almost killed this blog on many occasions (my most recent attempt was particularly spectacular). After blogging here very sporadically, this blog started to become more meaningful and almost losing a decade’s work (some of it probably wasn’t worth saving but it all represents aspects of me at some point or another), I decided to make a point of using it more often.

Blogging seems to be having a sort of Renaissance. You may have noticed a number of prominent bloggers returned to blogging with a 30 Day Challenge they took on to blog every day. I was tempted to do that but didn’t see myself sticking to that and still posting something worthwhile every day. I’ve thought about podcasting through SoundCloud or even doing video posts but as much as I enjoy consuming audio and video content, creating it hasn’t stuck with me. Writing remains my favourite way of expressing myself, followed closely by my photography.

10 years is a convenient time period to commemorate blogging. It certainly feels like a substantial period of time. At the same time, the underlying writing habit pre-dated it and will probably stay with me for decades to come. I blog because of some compulsion to share stuff and as blogging tools become easier to use, I expect I’ll blog more often. It is still one of the best ways to express yourself in your space that won’t vanish when terms of service change (at least, less likely, I hope).

Ghost of WordPress’ past

I came across an almost inevitable comparison post between newer blog publishing platform, Ghost, and WordPress the other day. I like Ghost’s emphasis on Markdown and its simplicity. I also know that Nathan Jeffery uses Ghost for his blog and he enjoys using it. You probably guessed that I am a bit WordPress user and have been for almost as long as I have been blogging. I think this line probably captures Ghost’s appeal for many of its users:

In its current form, Ghost satisfies an audience that wants a simple, frictionless, publishing experience.

Comparisons between Ghost and WordPress (or any other publishing platform, for that matter) that are intended to convince you that one is better than another are pretty silly. That said, this comparison post is interesting just to get a sense of what Ghost is if you are familiar with WordPress.

As for me, I like using platforms which let me just write and while Ghost certainly does that, I’m happy with WordPress. I even switched to the visual editor from the plain text editor. You know, just write …

Should professional websites have blogs?

My primary business is my digital risk consulting business and its website has a blog along with static pages about me, my services as related themes. I have maintained a blog on my professional sites for about 9 years, it just seemed like the right way to set up a professional site. Lately, though, I’ve been wondering whether I should separate my blog from the static site?

Sam Glover wrote a post titled “Get Your Law Blog Off Your Law Firm Website” on Lawyerist a while ago and I pulled it out of my Instapaper archives to read again. Glover makes an argument for why professionals, particularly lawyers, should maintain a separate blog because it’s function is different.

Blogging is long-game marketing. When you have a well-read blog, you earn your own media every time you post something. You don’t need to wait around for the local news to call you for your analysis of the latest celebrity divorce or corporate bankruptcy (although if you have a good blog, they probably will); you can just publish it yourself.

But in order to build that audience, your blog is better off on its own website, with its own look and feel. Your blog should appear to be (and actually be) a publication, not a law firm’s marketing website.

The basic idea is that people visit law firm websites when they are looking for a lawyer and only stay on the site long enough to assess whether the firm can help them out. On the other hand, people who find a professional blog they find informative keep returning for more content, not necessarily because they Google’d something they need help with.

That makes some sense to me although I have maintained a blog on my business sites because my thinking was that having a blog there keeps the site dynamic (assuming I publish regularly) and that keeps Google and other search engines interested. Perhaps my thinking is dated and/or no longer valid?

Is a blog on a professional website an attempt to mix oil and water, metaphorically speaking? Does that model hinder both from being more effective on their own?

If it is better to separate the two, I’m tempted to merge the WTL blog into this one. On the one hand, doing this enables me to write more fluidly and focus my writing on one blog and, on the other hand, keeping a focused blog maintains the niche I created and better serves readers who are only interested in that content.

I’m sure this stuff used to be simpler back in the day when blogging was still new. Any thoughts?

Blogging 2.0 – when your blog becomes your social hub

You may have gathered that I think about how we use social services like Facebook, Twitter and others quite a bit. You also probably know that I am a pretty big Path fan although it’s not clear whether Path has much of a future when it comes to the people who mean the most to me (Update 2016-02-18: Path seems to have largely fallen by the wayside for me and my friends who were previously big fans. Slack has become a great option in its place, which is pretty interesting).

I started thinking about blogs in a social context. Blogs like this one have become personal hubs where we share our ideas, passions and more. For many people, their blogs are their digital news feeds and identities but they aren’t nearly as optimised for personal sharing as dedicated social services like Facebook, Google+ or even Path. This is one of the reasons why many people use Facebook or Google+ as their personal blogging platforms. These services have pretty granular sharing options even though their users don’t have meaningful control over their “blogs”.

At the moment this WordPress blog enables me to share posts publicly (my default), password protect posts or keep them to myself with a private publication option. What if WordPress enabled me to share posts with limited groups of people that I define instead? What if people could register using a variety of social profiles and I could allocate those people to groups and when I publish blog posts, share selectively?

It may look a bit like BuddyPress although what I have in mind doesn’t necessarily involve creating a social network on your site but rather establishing your site as a node in a decentralised social network of connected sites.

That sort of model would probably look a lot like Google+ Circles but it would be my site which I directly control and can host. Imagine that becomes a wider practice and now you have a distributed social network constituting a network of blogs that link to each other, can be followed and participated in. WordPress would be an ideal platform. It already has a substantial network of users. Theoretically possible. The question is whether anyone would take advantage of the functionality?