Amanda Etches-Johnson: More wow for blogs

Amanda Etches-Johnson

Blogs: Less what, more how, more wow.

Blots are: easy, effective, conversational, distributed.  But: require commitment!  (Amanda says she cannot hold herself up as an example because she hasn’t blogged in months… but when she does, we love her!)  Blogs are perfect fodder for RSS feeds, allowing you to create content on the blog and then reuse it at your leisure in other places on the web.

So how to do all that with some extra wow?
Design matters.  Jacob Neilsen (web usability guru) wrote about blog usability, indicting bloggers for failing to pay attention to web usability.  Good pointers: Blogs should be clean and simple, and contain useful links.  Academic libraries are often constrained by institutional templates, but outside of that, work to stay within usability guidelines.

Crucial questions: Why are you blogging?  What’s your purpose?  What’s your scope?   AE-J recommends focusing on a specific audience or a specific topic, to help your participants stay on task, stay excited, and retain focus.  And once you’ve decided, publish it on your blog’s About page.

Know your audience.
Your audience dictates your content, your design, your timing, everything.  Make no assumptions about your audience, what they want, and what they understand.  AE-J comments on the number of blogs with links to RSS feeds without any indication of what that is.  That’s an assumption about user understanding that may not be justified.

Drop the PR-speak
It’s not a press release!  Don’t speak as The Library — and drop the passive/third person  language.  Not compelling to read “The Library’s policy on fines has been updated.”, but more compelling to read “We’re excited to let you know that we’ve updated our fine policy.  Some details that will affect you include…”

Guarding against blog abandonment
Share authorship, so that there is no one person solely responsible for feeding and watering the critter.  Multiple authors can feed off of each others’ ideas and energy.  In a multi-author environment, make sure to be transparent, putting up clear authorship statements on each post and blurbs about each author on the blog.

Steal that blog!
What are other places doing?  Take that which will work for you!  AE-J makes reference to NYPL Labs, where they talk about what they’re working on and what’s upcoming.  Great place to get ideas and find new and innovative stuff.  McMaster is doing the same, creating a library lab… not yet released to the world, but AE-J is excited about it.

Got content?
Get it out!
  Display headlines on your home page.  Get it on other pages.  Use bits of code like Feed2JS and plug your content in wherever you can put it.  The web is a distributed information environment, so distribute yourself!  Your library website, your campus course management system, the campus website, wherever is appropriate for your campus.

Make your blog a 2-way street.
Open up comments, and then engage your users with compelling content.  Without compelling content, you’ll never build a community!  Have a comment policy, and then invite the community to self-moderate, as well.

More for Less.

Why blog when you can microblog?  Microblogging can be terribly inane, but can also be really great for building a community.  Status updates (construction, exhibits, network problems, etc), quick information, reference questions, etc.

In re: one blog with multiple authors, is there a breaking point where everyone should have their own blog?  AE-J: Depends on the scope and purpose.  If your blog’s purpose is specific and narrow, ti probably doesn’t matter how many authors.  On a more general blog, if people start specializing, then they may need their own blog.

In re: how to link to a blog?  Value your blog, value your real-estate, and make decisions based on how important you want your marketing and outreach initiatives to be.

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