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Monday, December 28, 2009

Tips for new bloggers

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Tips for new bloggers

To create and retain a loyal readership, give your readers the value they deserve.

Anyone can start a blog. The problem is, with so many people across the globe blogging regularly, why would anyone want to read what you write? Some people write for the pure pleasure of it, or because for them, a blog is the equivalent of a personal diary. And they are content with a small but dedicated readership of fans or followers. But if you are not a celebrity and writing for a global audience, it can be hard to retain your readers’ interest considering the sheer volume of content that is available online. If you do a little research before beginning writing, you are likely to find that someone somewhere has already said what you want to. And at the same time, now that everyone can be published, a lot of poor quality writing is also doing the rounds online.

But there are things you can do to capture and retain the interest of your readers, improve the overall quality of your writing and ensure that your blog does not sink into the vast seas of repetitive, largely unread online content. Here are some basic guidelines to follow.

1. Define your topic
Decide what you want to write about and stick to it. This will give your writing a sense of direction and purpose. Most people will not be interested in the infinitesimally tiny details of your personal life, however interesting your own thoughts may seem to you. If you have multiple interests, create separate blogs to cover each of these, so you can avoid the verbal equivalent of trying to sell a sledgehammer to a watchmaker. Define your bounds from the start and stay strictly within them; also make them unambiguous and easily identifiable to readers.

2. Make sure you have your story straight
To do justice to your readers, you must be up-to-date with all the latest happenings in the field of your interest. When citing figures or quoting someone, don’t just make an empty statement - be sure to credit the source. Your credibility as a consistent blogger can only be built through knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, and not merely through giving the appearance of knowledge and understanding. This can only happen through dedicated study and sustained interest in the subject. When expressing a personal opinion, explain clearly that it is your personal opinion. Other people may go on to quote you, so be fair to them. Make sure your theories really hold water, and that you are not wasting your readers’ time by stating shaky opinions founded on inadequate research.

3. Get to the point
Your readers’ time is precious. Don’t waste it by giving them lengthy, useless introductions. Before you start writing, make sure you have a point, and focus on introducing it as early as you can. Each sentence should be used to focus and drive your central point. Remember, you have a very short span of time before your reader decides that he/she is uninterested in what you are saying and moves on to the next blog. Use that time as well as you can. State your case clearly and quickly and avoid the use of redundant, repetitive words. Steer clear of adjectives and long-winded descriptions - provide facts as far as possible, and let people judge for themselves. Avoid jargon and long words/sentences where simpler ones will suffice. This will let people relate to your writing with greater ease. Make each word count. Also, remember that people across the globe are going to be reading what you write; in terms of content and style, aim for global rather than local.

To create and retain a loyal readership, give your readers the value they deserve.

4. Be original
Give your readers the value they deserve. They don’t need you to reiterate opinions held by masses of people across the world, or rewrite news items faithfully without diverting from the original content of the story. Look for what people will care about and mould your content to build their interest, but don’t forget to add your own voice and personality to the content you publish.

5. Provide visual relief
Avoid large, intimidating, impossible-to-read blocks of text. Use subheads to break up your text, or insert pictures, graphs or quotes. Ensure that every element is informative, relevant and unambiguous in meaning.

6. Encourage dialogue
The concept of blogging revolves around people exchanging ideas. If you don’t allow people to comment, you lose out on the ability to find out about the large variety of alternative opinions out there. Let people come back to you with what they think, and respond to them. Respect your readers’ opinions even if you don’t agree with them.
This will help you to grow and learn as a writer and person.

7. Stick to a schedule
Figure out how much time you can invest in blogging each week/month. Try to post as frequently as you can, but stay realistic when setting expectations. Don’t overcommit and then disappear for weeks at a time. Apologise to your readers each time you come back after an absence.

8. Spellcheck!
Everyone is prone to the occasional embarrassing typo, and unless you are in the habit of reading your text over several times before you publish, it’s nearly unavoidable. Running a spellcheck before you publish can save you a lot of trouble later.

9 Useful Websites You Should Know About, But Probably Don't

Featuring news, TV Shows, computer software and more. The second in the

The following is a continuance of my previous article, Nine Websites

You Should Know About, But Probably Don't. We decided that there were

still some extremely useful websites that were left out, so I'm writing

a continuation article to cover these sites.


Genre: Instant messaging.

Why It's The Best: A one stop shop for all your instant messaging

clients - Meebo allows you to sign into all of your instant-messaging

services into the browser window, without having to download any of the

individual clients (MSN, AOL/ICQ, Yahoo, Jabber/Gtalk).


Genre: Product Reviews.

Why It's The Best:

With all the product reviews floating around the internet, it's hard to

know who's behind these reviews. Review sites like Epinions pay their

users to write reviews, so most of these reviews are written by people

who never even bought or used the product.

On the majority of reviews are written by people who

have been verified to have actually purchased the product, so the

reviews are quality oriented, unbiased, and trustworthy. (See how the

Verified Buyer system works) Also, they used a "tag based review

system" where you can find products and reviews that match your user

profile, needs, and interests.


Genre: Music.

Why It's The Best: An easy to use and extremely accurate music

recommendations system, all you have to do is type in the name of your

favorite band or artist, and immediately the site will start playing

songs which you can thumbs up, thumbs down, or skip over. The more you

tell the system what you like and don't like, the more accurate the

recommendations will be. There's no registration and no downloads



Genre: Community based lending.

Why It's The Best: Prosper is a site where you can lend people money

for an interest rate you set the minimum to and bid in increments of

$50 to $25,000 on loan listings you select. If you're on the borrowing

side, you can list how much you want to borrow and set your maximum

interest rate, and lenders can compete for the loan by lowering their

offered interest rate. Lenders can easily check the borrowers' credit

grade to assess their risk. Read more under How it Works.


Genre: Local reviews.

Why It's The Best: Yelp is the best local guide in the San Francisco

Bay, Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and Seattle, and pretty

much every city that matters in the U.S. You can read reviews on

everything from restaurants to home services within your area, and find

which places to try out and which to avoid.


Genre:Auction site.

Why It's The Best: Etsy is essentially an eBay for all things handmade.

Users can buy and sell homemade goods, promoting a vision for a better



Genre: Textbook renting.

Why It's The Best: is a site I randomly stumbled upon through

one of the founders I met through Facebook. Chegg provides a new way of

getting your college textbooks for cheap by renting them for a fraction

of their cost price. Additionally, Chegg promotes an "eco-friendly"

business model by planting a tree for each textbook rented. They have

an inventory of over 2 million book Titles.


Genre: GrandCentral gives you “One number for life” which lets you

forward all your calls from any number, and answer calls at any phone

you want.

Why It's The Best: You can easily switch phones in the middle of a

phone call, screen your calls, check your voicemail by phone/email/or

online, organize/store/and record calls, customized voicemails, and a

lot more. For the full description and features, click here.


Genre: Sells cool stuff for cheap.

Why It's The Best: Woot sells one consumer electronics product a day

until it is sold out (which is typically very fast since they offer it

at a major discount). Users can discuss the product up for sale on the

forum, and they show you all kinds of stats like percentage sales per

hour, quantity breakdown, revenue they incurred for that product, and

so on. A very fun way to get really cheap electronics!

This combo picture shows the pictures taken by Fei Maohua, a Xinhua News Agency photographer based in China, who won the second prize of the Sports Action Stories category. The prize-winning entries of the World Press Photo Contest 2008, the world's largest annual press photography contest, were announced Feb. 8, 2008


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