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Copy editors are the last set of eyes before yours. They are more powerful than proofreaders. They untangle twisted prose. They are surgeons, removing growths of error and irrelevance; they are minimalist chefs, straining fat. [...] The copy editor's job, to the extent possible under deadline, is to slow down, think things through, do the math and ask the irritating question.

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   |  Blog class, Part 4

posted at 11:35 PM | | [2] |

Continuing the saga of the class. As much as I’ve blogged (too much, some might say) and in spite of my apparent willingness to throw myself in front of a group of people to talk about blogging, it was certainly clear when I was planning the class that I’m hardly the ultimate expert on All Things Blogging. The solution, of course, is to get help from people who really know what they’re doing.

As soon as I got the go-ahead to do the class, I went on a bit of a blogging-book shopping spree. Blogging exploded in the early 2000s; books on business blogging exploded in 2006, it seems, and I rounded up a nice selection. Debbie Weil and especially Nancy Flynn wrote for the POV of the company considering letting its employees loose on blogging. Shel Holz & Ted Demopoulus and DL Byron & Steve Broback wrote for the person inside the corporation who was going to be doing the blogging. Tom Masters, whose book we selected as the text for the class, wrote for the individual blogger, offering tons of advice on quantifying the blogging experience. And Shel Israel and Scoble wrote about all of those things and about blogging as a socio-corporate phenomenon. (The most compelling of all those books, I thought, but I’m somewhat biased.) I had a great time reading these books, and pulled quote after quote out of them as aphorisms about points that I wanted to make. Here are just a couple, indulge me for a sec.
What problem does blogging solve? The human desire -- and business need -- to connect. In real time.
-- Debbie Weil
Ask yourself this question. What do I care enough about that I want to talk about it every day? You can measure your passion for a particular topic by how much you read about it, talk about it, or engage in activities associated with that subject area. If your answer is “not much,” you might want to consider another topic. -- Tom Masters
Your writing style: Be simple, clear, conversational. In other words, write well. -- Debbie Weil
And others too numerous to mention.[1]

And then online, of course, I found hundreds of sites. I ended up with a three-page list of links to what I considered to be useful instructions and advice about blogging. (Pity the student who feels compelled to look at all those sites.)

The most interesting part of the research, tho, was asking real, live bloggers for some thoughts. Leveraging the slimmest possible excuse of an acquaintance, I emailed some questions to people whose blogs I admire. And I got back some great answers. I asked Nancy Friedman about her experience with blog platforms, and she sent me back a wonderful, detailed email with her history with Typepad and what she would do different now.

I pinged Eric Lippert, who (as noted in the last segment) had cogent, thought-provoking things to say about comment policies and about the criteria he uses when deciding to blog something. Scott Hanselman pointed me to his post Blog Interesting - 32 Ways to Keep Your Blog from Sucking, which boils down his years of blogging into a couple of pages of pithy observations.

I regret that I didn’t ask more people -– Jeff Atwood, Scott Guthrie, Phil Haack, and John McIntyre among people I (sort of) know, and Ariel Meadow Stallings, Steve Yegge, Eric Sink, Randy Tinseth, and Joel Spolsky among those I don’t know and might screw up the courage to contact. These are all people whose blogs I used as (positive) examples in the class and whose thoughts about their blogs and their blogging experience would be wonderful to hear first-hand. Well, perhaps in the future.

Next time: The class itself and what we did.


[1] I can post the whole list if you’re interested.

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