4. Writing and managing content
Whichever platform you choose, most blogs will have a similar set of features. This part of the guide will tell you about the mechanics of blogging, i.e. how to blog, and some pointers on what you might like to write, i.e. what to blog.
How to Blog
Like many niche activities, blogging has its own terminology, which may seem off putting to those new to it. A typical blog will have some or all of the following characteristics:
Posts and pages
You may have options to "Create a new post" and "Create a new page". Both are kinds of web page. Posts are tied to a particular date: these are the main content of your blog. Over time, they will automatically move from your front page to your archive. Pages are more conventional: they will usually have their own buttons in the blog's layout. "About me", "My research", or "My teaching" would go in pages.
Categories and tags
Categories enable posts to be organised by subjects (or tags) and help readers to find information about a specific topic quickly and easily. Individual posts can be assigned into several categories, often just by ticking a box when writing them.
To bookmark Bradford DeLong's February 2016 post on Obamacare, the link is http://www.bradford-delong.com/2016/02/obamacare-how-is-it-doing.html . Small print at the foot of that post reveals that it has a number of categories, including Political economy. The link for this category is http://www.bradford-delong.com/political_economy/ . Rather than a specific piece of text, this bookmark will take the reader to whatever DeLong has recently written on the topic of Political economy.
As you create a blog, create categories for the main topics you write about, and apply at least one category to each post (posts can have multiple categories).
If a blog post is intended for students on a particular course, use the course code as a category. Then the link for that category will always lead to the latest announcement for that course.
Comments and trackbacks
Most blogging software allows readers to comment on posts. Readers can suggest corrections, clarify information or simply add their opinion on the post. Comments are normally time-stamped and include the author's name and other details. Another useful feature is that they can also be threaded allowing readers to comment on comments.
When you publish a blog post that links to a post on someone else's blog, your software will automatically send a notification which can appear as a comment on that blog, with a link back to the new post on your blog. This automated message is called a trackback.
Posts and pages, like other web pages, can contain links. You can also have a list of links as part of the blog design, so it appears on every page and post. This is called a blogroll and it usually directs a reader to interesting links that relate to the theme of the blog. As you find blogs you are interested in, add them to the blogroll for your own and your readers' benefit.
Archives are chronological collections of posts, enabling a reader to go back through time and see past posts. They can be arranged by day, week or month, depending on how frequently the site is updated. This is taken care of by the software.
Having a diary of your intellectual activity can be useful if you are involved in a long-term activity, such as doing doctoral research. Going back a few years on your own blog to see what you were learning about or excited about on a particular date, you might be pleasantly surprised at how far you've progressed, or be reminded of an idea that you didn't follow up on.
What to Blog
Blogging, like other forms of online communication (e.g. email) has its own set of social conventions. It's important to be aware of the following when writing or commenting on blogs:
Think about your audience
Potentially anything you post can read by a global audience. And a post might be archived or cached and therefore impossible to remove. Think carefully about posting contentious or provocative material, it may spark a rise in readership, but it could make you unpopular online.
The audience are aware that they are reading something quickly written and published, rather than a proper, reviewed paper. So it's okay to be brief and informal. On the other hand, non-standard abbreviations and too much jargon can put an audience off. Remember that any post might be the first that a reader encounters, so if you are using obscure terminology or extending a prior debate, provide links for context. If there are some technical terms that you use a lot, you might use a page (see above) to create a short glossary.
Credit sources and respect copyright
Avoid quoting large extracts from a source without the consent of the copyright holder. Credit original authors appropriately: include a link, sometimes called a HatTip, to other bloggers if you are discussing their views.
Correct mistakes and post updates
Mistakes are inevitable. You might discover them yourself or readers may highlight them. Correcting them adds credibility to your blog and makes it look more professional. If possible, leave the original entry intact and make corrections by adding extra material. Retrospectively deleting text from a blog entry is frowned on, as this may make some of the comments users have posted to your initial article look out of place. Consider using strikeout formatting (
like this) to show edits.
Identify yourself and be available
Try and ensure that your readers can contact you if necessary. If you do post comments on other blogs, it's good practice to identify yourself and provide information about how you can be contacted (usually an email address).
Unattributed comments might be considered as spam. If you don't want a comment to be attributed to you then you should consider whether you really want to make it.