Your Blogging Success: Review and Critique, Then Celebrate!
We dance because it’s the fastest, most direct route to the truth—not some big truth that belongs to everybody, but the get-down-and-personal kind; the what’s-happening-in-me-right-now kind of truth.
Feeling Good About What Was Accomplished
At the end of the year, there are a lot of “The Year In Review” type articles that look back upon the performance of this and that. Measurements, evaluations, revised plans, review of targets, and lots of questions in the same vein. Did we reach our projections? What were our outcomes? How about results?
Taking stock of where we are and where we’re going is a good thing. But it doesn’t have to be quite so heavy-handed or disheartening. The bloggers and business owners I’ve met this year are an upbeat, lively, and giving bunch of folk. I’ve had a wonderful time meeting and engaging them, responding to their ideas, hearing their wisdom, and sharing a good laugh.
Having lots of tools is much more important than a crystal ball . . . keeping your tool belt full of great ideas and lots of options will always make sure you can get the job done.
Can you agree that gazing into a crystal ball1 is one of the most unscientific ways to determine the future of your blog’s success? Yet, there is some magic that happens between you and your readers, and, according to Jakes, there is even some math2 at work.
We are our own best and worst critics!
Like you, I love results (I’m one of those XXXX on that oh-so-scientific M-B personality thing!). Just for today, I’d like to celebrate.
For a moment, let’s lay aside the pure methodologies, scientific processes, and the pixie dust, and get down to this: building your own unscientific, somewhat-subjective, personal blogging scorecard.
Let’s celebrate what we did, whether it was done “right” or not. Let’s be happy with what we improved upon — according to our own estimation.
I’ll highlight some of the blogs I visited that used techniques I like. And you check off whether or not you used that particular technique in your blog.
Hey, no right or wrong answers! No worries, I won’t be keeping score. (I just like checkboxes.) Your answers will disappear as soon as you close this page.
Then what? Share a little about which, if any, of these you liked, used, improved upon. Or just share others that worked for you.
Deal? Let’s go . . .
1Did you . . . Spend a little time on aesthetics and lookin’ good?
Well, I did *think* about aesthetics
Hmm, hadn’t really considered that!
Yep, did a little something-something to make it look better around here!
But what about the sexy stuff? Hmmm. Remember, you’re supposed to be checking off all the fun stuff you did to enhance your web presence.
Grantly Lynch was busy reviewing old techniques and showcasing new techniques on his photography blog. Me? I changed the theme again (problems with nested comments) and finally decided to kick IE 6 and 7 off the cliff (’cause IE messes up my design)! Hope you’ll forgive me. (But you can get yourself a real browser, Firefox or Chrome.)
Earlier this year I was laser-focused on figuring out how to make bits of text stand out, create side bars, make pull-quotes. I didn’t want to use plugins and graphics for what was purely typographical. Finally got some answers and put it in writing so I could refer back to it.
Here’s a 5-part series on how you can use CSS to add interesting quotes, sidebars, text boxes, callouts: CSS Text-Box Styles For Serious Writers.
And if pretty text ain’t enough, IconShock dropped a whole slew of pretty graphics down the chimney for you to scoop up, like the Heartquake Prevention Pak. (Whoa, creative force Sneh Roy of Little Box of Ideas came right behind them and tipped over that Free Fonts Bucket that had 48 brilliant fonts inside! Take as much as you want!)
It’s the little things that make us happy. What little thing (or big thing) did you do?
2Did you . . . Read any good books lately?
Yes, and something I read influenced something I wrote.
Yep, just for the pleasure of reading words written on PAPER!
No but I’ve got that stack waiting on me!
Can you echo the sentiment expressed by Tristan Higbee:
“But I LOVE books and I LOVE reading. … And finally, for me, reading is very relaxing.” 5
On my recent reading list? Three books dealing with the fragility of life. Stolen Lives (Oufkir and Fitoussi), An Innocent Man (Grisham), and Morning (Wetherell).
Which of the books (or blogs) you read lately has had an impact on an article or blog post you wrote?
Aaron Pogue, of Unstressed Syllables, commands bloggers to use a bit of their precious time to “read, read, read!”6 — which is a surefire way to:
Get to know the voices in your niche. Those are the voices your readers are already familiar with, so you should be, too. Get to know some voices outside your niche, too. See what they’re doing right, that your competitors aren’t, and bring it to your readers.
3Did you . . . Use any reference books?
Use an online, electronic, or paper Dictionary or Thesaurus?
Nope. Don’t need ‘em! Didn’t use ‘em!
Ahem! I get the Word of The Day sent to me via email, SMS, or RSS!
One of my favorite online dictionaries is found in the Free Dictionary reference suite. (I used it for any definitions found in this article, too.)
The Free Dictionary features dictionary, thesaurus, words in context of literature classics, audio pronunciations, and translations. And, yes, I do play Hangman and some of the other word games about every 5th trip over there, okay?
G.I. Joh offers us 10 Simple Yet Effective Tips on Writing that Everyone Should Know 7. Her #8 is exactly what I have in mind when I’m playing Hangman . . . “expand your vocabulary”.
[C]hoose different words that have the same meaning in order to reduce word redundancy in your post. – GI Joh
Just before this article went to press, a little gem dropped in my lap: Amr Boghdady of Learn German Online8 features WOTD (Word of the Day) and Jokes — both in German — to help build the vocabulary and colloquial skills of persons studying the language. Apropos, eh?
4Did you . . . Incorporate video or audio into your articles?
Used a video to enhance a blog post.
Created an audio blurb or podcast and inserted it into an article.
Head-shaking, lectern-banging, master public speaker Keith Davis easily captures (and holds) your attention. His blog posts are a lot like attending a live performance. You might say the comments he gets on his blog are like never-ending applause and shouts of “Encore, Encore!”
How’d he do that, you ask? You might say he knows when to hush and let somebody else do the talking . . . For example, in Look For The Shining Eyes, Keith used a video (a 20-minute video!) featuring classical pianist Benjamin Zander to make the point he was writing about. I’ll bet everyone who reads his article listens to that video — in its entirety!
Audio works well, too.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of interviewing a local business owner who runs two brick-and-mortar businesses. We did the interview over BlogTalkRadio. When I wrote up highlights from the interview, I included a couple of audio excerpts from the interview in the blog post. And the business owner added some audio snippets to his website, too. (He said his customers were REAL impressed!)
Video and audio really mix it up!
5Did you . . . Publish an online ezine or offline newsletter?
Yep, I published an online or email newsletter!
Thinking about publishing one.
SlideRocket is new to me. When I took a quick look at it, using it to create a newsletter was not the first thing that came to mind. Ryah’s newsletter is not overwhelmingly long and it is beautifully presented! (Ryah is on Twitter at @InfoJunkiesAnon.)
Kimberly Castleberry (@AskKim) of Just-Ask-Kim does her’s somewhat differently: She publishes her ezine via email and also provides an online version on her website, giving her readers a choice in how they view it.
I received her email version, that’s how I found out it was also published on her site. I’m a fan of plain text email newsletters simply because too often they don’t display properly. But Kim did a great job with her email newsletter — it’s graphical, hyperlinked, and well presented.
Many of my own clients use Aweber, but like Kim, I use AutoresponsePlus to manage my subscriptions. Can’t remember why you should have an online (or offline) newsletter even though you blog? Get inspiration from 10 Excellent Reasons to Create A Newsletter (Ezine) For Your Business This Year.
6Did you . . . Find a new tool to satisfy a pressing need?
Still looking for it
No need for any new tools
Yes! I found and used the perfect tool for …
Trying to satisfy my dire need for a web-based project management tool with collaborative features, my hunt led me to TeamLab. Similar to a desktop application (but it’s “software-as-a-service” aka “SaaS”), what makes it really attractive is it’s free, open source, and easy to use.
A collaborative project management application might seem like overkill for blogging, but bloggers generally have lots of things going on, like client work! As this was seriously important for my workload, I’ve made sure to jump in the conversations to let the creators know what I need. (As a backup, I’m also giving Mavenlink a trial run, since it’s free, even though it’s not open source.)
Don’t need a project management tool?
Maybe you’ve longed for a set of checklists that help you stay on top of the ever-increasing mountain of tasks you undertake. Cameron Chapman compiled bunches of Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires for Smashing Magazine10 just to make your life (and mine) easier.
These three are some of my favorites. They are available as free, downloadable PDFs (no registration required):
- The Ultimate Website Launch Checklist
- The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist
- 25-point Website Usability Checklist
Now, what was that pressing need you had?
This brings me to my final question, namely . . .
7Did you . . . Sponsor a contest, enter a contest, win a prize?
Yes, I ran a contest and had great fun!
Yes, I entered one or more contests in hopes I’d win something cool!
Hey, I participated in one of Justin’s Random Twitter Poems!
This year, the concept of bloggers getting in on game mechanics was highlighted in a variety of venues. Squidoo’s Megan Casey gave a talk on it at BizTech San Francisco11 and Jamie Beckland alluded to it in his 10 Cures for Your Social Media Pains (it was #8)12
Justin Germino (aka DragonBlogger) certainly understands game mechanics. Isn’t it neat how he writes such an eclectic series of poems based on words tweeted by his followers? The poems get people involved, who then wait in anticipation for his tweet that announces, “It’s ready”!!
Not long ago, I had the pleasure of having my word included. To my pleasant surprise, the poem’s feature photo that day even reflected my word! The poem? Presentation Matters. Get your own word in there next time . . . (Follow him @DragonBlogger to get in the game!)
For love of the game is why Kissie ran her Twitter campaign. The game is football and the campaign is all about getting a favorite player from a beloved team to dive into her Twitter stream. Now that’s different! The campaign is still pressing forward. Clicking on that football will let you get in on the action. Target date? Christmas Day!
Tally It Up (And Forget Crystal Balls)
Last December I was bold enough to gaze into my foggy crystal ball and prognosticate on the future of our HR industry. Well it’s time to assess my performance and take my lumps where appropriate. I don’t consider myself dim, but this bulb did not shine as brightly as I would have hoped. — Mark Stelzner
Sometimes . . . Just finishing the race is enough.
I mean, not having given up. Not becoming so overwhelmed you became paralyzed. Not letting what you didn’t (yet) know stifle and overshadow what you did know. Time to simply feel good about what you did accomplish.
Dance Your Jig!
Your Turn: Tell the world about your BIGGEST success this year!
Share it in the comments section below.
- Jamie Beckland in A Big Tool Belt Is More Important than a Crystal Ball, 9 November 2010. [↩ go back]
- Anoop Jacob, known as Jakes writes about the relationship between blogging and math in his article Blogging and Mathematics [↩ go back]
- End of year article, My 2008 Scorecard – A Look Back by Mark Stelzner, December 18, 2008, Inflexion Advisors. [↩ go back]
- Why do we dance? by Amit Jathar, July 30, 2010. [↩ go back]
- Tristan Higbee lists reading as one of several must-do tasks in the blogging cycle in his article How to Run a Successful Blog on 1–3 Hours of Work a Day. [↩ go back]
- Aaron Pogue, of Unstressed Syllables, commands bloggers to “read, read, read!” in order to find their voices in Read, Read, Read to Write Better, a guest post he wrote for Website In A Weekend. [↩ go back]
- 10 Simple Yet Effective Tips on Writing that Everyone Should Know (Part II), G.I. Joh, Johanna, December 10, 2010 [↩ go back]
- Amr Boghdady teaches the formal and finer points of the German language online for free at Deautsched: Learn German Online. [↩ go back]
- Erudition Newsletter by Ryah Albatros of Infomation Junkies Anonymous is presented via the online presentation platform, SlideRocket.com [↩ go back]
- Blogger Cameron Chapman owns Cameron on Writing. Her guest post 45 Incredibly Useful Web Design Checklists and Questionnaires appeared in Smashing Magazine on June 29, 2009. [↩ go back]
- DownTheAvenue.com captured the fine points of Megan Casey’s talk at the BizTech conference in San Franciso Squidoo’s Megan Casey: Game Mechanics Will Change Your Business. [↩ go back]
- Jamie Beckland points up game mechanics as part of social media strategy in his article 10 Cures for Your Social Media Pains over at Social Media Examiner, November 28, 2010. He delves deeper into the concept in an earlier article, Game Mechanics: The Most Important Online Tactic You’re Not Using, May 5, 2010, on JamieBeckland.com. [↩ go back]
- Silhouette of Dancing People via Aviary, derived from silhouette20dancing20people.jpg by Rashavon, re-licensed as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. [↩ go back]
- Patterned Football With Twitter Tweet via Aviary, derived from football_graphic.jpg by michaelmusic, re-licensed as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. [↩ go back]
- When Winning Means Everything, How To Swim, People Climbing Reference Bookstack all courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig/HikingArtist.com via Flickr, licensed Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic. [↩ go back]
- Lovely Mirror on a Stand from the free Women’s Day Icon Set by http://www.cutelittlefactory.com” target=”_new” rel=”nofollow”>Andrea Austoni, Cute Little Factory. [↩ go back]
- Animated Dancing Girl via Photobucket. License unknown. [↩ go back]
- Screenshots by Vernessa: The Hands of Pianist Benjamin Zander from YouTube video Benjamin Zander: Classical music with shining eyes, Front Cover of Erudition Online Newsletter from Sliderocket presentation, TeamLab Collage from TeamLab website and Dashboard. [↩ go back]