Thursday, August 23, 2007

What makes a good blog?

For somebody who said he wasn't going to blog for a while, I'm sure blogging a lot! {sigh} Jeff over at Long Delayed Echos dropped a post Mo Better Bloggin' asking "what does it take to make a good blog?" This didn't start with Jeff. AD7MI kicked it off and several others have chimed in. This is now an excellent thread leading through several blogs.
I have asked myself how to improve what I deliver but find the problem vexing. In engineering terms, blogging is often "open loop." I write stuff and people read it an hour, day, week, month, or even a year later. I don't know if those folks enjoyed it, thought it was a waste of time, or somewhere in-between. Feedback is good but under the best of circumstances only a small fraction of those who read will respond whether it is to a local newspaper, national magazine, or blog. So, in the absence of direct feedback, I take some direction by noticing what engages me.
Jeff follows 150 blogs according to a recent post. I follow fewer than 30 (though that number has been steadily growing). Some site are little more than announcements for DX. Others are very personal expositions. Obviously the more personal works inspire.
I followed K2DBK's trip to the Cayman Islands. I cringed reading about his antenna troubles, first concerned that he didn't have as much fun as he should have had, and then a pang guilt that I may have given him bad advice about radials for his Buddistick. I've still got a to do item to verify some of my Buddistick configurations and measurements.
Steven Weinert (K9ZW) writes With Varying Frequency and has been very active both on the bands and with his blog. We met in Dayton this year, finally conversing in person after so many correspondences electronically. Maybe that is the sign of a good blog: I really wanted to meet Steve!
Soldersmoke podcasts break up those long drives. I learned of the loss of Mike (KL7R) while on Montserrat. I felt like I lost a friend even though we had never met.
Other posts like Harry Potter Ruined my Marriage from K9JY's blog and KA3DRR's blog talking about Radio Dawg having a few tooth troubles remind me that we are people with lives and families, pets, hopes and dreams.
Close friends in the area blog, too, including Greg NE1OB's Sporatic Reflections, and now Rich AB1HD's Nerd on Call. Rich is just getting started but Greg has been at it for a while. Though Greg doesn't post often, he seems to spot the best stuff and talk about it. I know whenever a new post appears it will be something interesting. One of his last posts was about "throw bags" that aborists use to get lines over trees. That post cost me about $50! The blisters on my hands from practicing with these throw bags still haven't healed. What fun!
What I write here in my blog is focused on a particular topic: traveling with your radio. I do wander off-topic occasionally (as I'm doing tonight), but always circle back around. As with other blogs, I hope the distractions add and not diminish the value here.
I began rethinking the format, content, and commitment to this blog sometime in July. The problem I'm having now is understanding the advantages, and limits, imposed by this medium. Blogging seems like a good way to express brief ideas in staccato succession, but it is not particularly well suited to long discussions or the presentation of detailed technical information. For that, a white paper or even a book may be a better alternative. I will be eventually backing off this level of blogging so I can pursue some deeper ways to communicate.

What makes a good blog? Tell a story. Give something of yourself. People are drawn to honesty. Share your successes and your failures. Don't try to write for the ages; write for the moment with care. Understand the medium and your audience. I'm violating both those last tenants with this post as it is both too long (violating the best practices of the medium) and is off-topic (not strictly for a ham radio audience). I guess I should add that you should know when to break the rules.

I've had private discussions with some who read this blog about the general state of blogging in the ham radio community. This is so new that the vast majority in the hobby have never heard of it. We, who are here first, have a chance to be the standard setters. That's a little scary... and exciting. It will be interesting to see how this medium develops over the new few years.

4 Comments:

Blogger Scot said...

Well done! Our community is growing and this is an exciting moment for me and perhaps many others. Our blog thread further refined what my focus is, how to focus my conversation, and why I log my adventures in Amateur Radio. As mentioned in your posting, this is a good moment to discuss flexible standards for our growing community. All the best to you and yours.

73 de Scot, KA3DRR

August 23, 2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger KI4WLR said...

Thanks for all the great suggestions and links to the other amateur radio blogs.

As one of the newer people in amateur radio, but not new to techknowlogy, it is nice to see so many other ham radio operators that are using the internet.

As a new ham, it does take away the sterotypical "operator" of old and show that amateur operators today are as advanced as always.

73, KI4WLR
http://www.ki4wlr.com

August 23, 2007 10:08 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

Scott,
I for one look forward to reading your blog. No matter what the topic du jour happens to be, you present it in an enjoyable (and sometimes humorous) way that makes me wanting to come back for more. For me, that is the sign of a good blog. Keep up the good work!

73,
Rich AB1HD

August 23, 2007 11:20 AM  
Blogger Steve Weinert said...

Many thanks for your kind words! I read but a handful of blogs daily, but do a sweep of blogs weekly. Your's is always in both lists!

Again many thanks and keep up YOUR good work!

73

Steve
K9ZW

August 23, 2007 4:38 PM  

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