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[Links open in new windows. Post updated 15/10/2014 at 9:02 PM GST]*

I have adapted the following from a longer, slightly different document I created for my Digital Information Technologies and Architectures (DITA) module at #citylis this year. It contains some tips for wordpress.com beginners and perhaps some for more advanced users.

Blogging is one of those online practices that apparently everyone and anyone can do but that in practice do pose various challenges particularly for beginners but also for more advanced users. If you are reading this already you are likely not to be completely alien to blogs, so I apologise if some of the suggestions are too basic.

I believe blogging is an essential element of any professional’s portfolio. I’d recommend this 2012 blog post by Ryan Cordell: “Creating and Maintaining a Professional Presence Online: A Roundup and ReflectionProfHacker, October 3, 2012.

Please take into account Ryan’s post is written from an USAmerican point of view and with an academic audience in mind. Also, some context in technologies might have changed since he published the post. However, it is possible to adapt his reflection, shared materials and suggestions to our own field and circumstances.

Below are some of the issues I consider important in blogging, and that can be sometimes overlooked:

Vocabulary

  • “A blog” (short for web log) is a dynamic web site that is frequently updated. It should not be confused with “a blog post”.
  • “Blog posts” or simply “posts” are dated entries that are published in inverse chronological order; i.e. the latest one will appear on top and will push previous ones down.
  • Your blog has a web address or URL, and if you want to refer people to your whole site you should give them a link to that address (ending in our case in wordpress.com). If you want to refer people to an individual blog post, however, you must refer them to the “permalink”, i.e. the unique URL or web address for that particular entry.
  • URL vs Blog Name. Your blog’s URL is the the Web address of your site, for example https://epriego.wordpress.com/. Your blog’s name is a human-readable word or phrase, in my case “Ernesto Priego”.
  • It is good that at least one of the terms in your URL appears also in your blog name and/or tagline. The tagline is important: it must be a short phrase giving more information about what your blog is about.

Authorship: Bylines!

  • Your byline/username: Please make sure you have updated your User Profile section. Your username should be different from the name that will be displayed publicly as your byline: jdoe is not the same as Jonathan Doe. For clear instructions on how to update your Profile and byline, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-profile/.
  • If you have guest bloggers it’s easy to add them as contributors, and this way they can also get a byline. Do not type “by Joe Doe” in the body of the text and leave your own byline as owner/administrator of the blog, give the author its own byline! To learn more about the different user roles in a blog, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/user-roles/.

Themes

  • A WordPress “Theme” is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with a specific design for a blog. You can browse different free themes here https://theme.wordpress.com/.
  • Deciding what theme to choose depends on several factors. Deciding for whom you will be publishing and what you expect your site to achieve will help you decide what kind of impression you want to give.
  • Please choose a theme that will indicate your “byline” (your authorship) clearly– different themes display bylines differently (say at the top of a post under the title or at the bottom of the post). Also make sure you choose a theme that displays a post’s tags and categories. Not all themes do. For a forum discussion on how to find a theme that displays bylines, see http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/which- themes-automatically-display-bylines?replies=12.
  • For general help about themes, see http://en.support.wordpress.com/themes/. Bear in mind not all themes might look the same on all browsers. So keep trying. You can change themes several times. You won’t lose any content published or saved as draft, but you might lose any widgets you have customised. (On widgets: http://en.support.wordpress.com/widgets/ ).

Posts

  • Assuming your intention is to have a blog within a professional network, it’s advisable to keep the tone and the language professional. Do proofread your posts and pages carefully; just because it’s theoretically faster to publish online it does not mean you can be careless.
  • It’s online, so do hyperlink. Decide if you will set your links to open in the same or in another window. For accessibility opening links in the same window is advised, but that will mean that your readers will be expected to return to your site to continue reading. You decide.
  • Use your posts to learn some basic HTML tags: practice switching from the visual to the HTML (text) editor.
  • Include images in your posts, but make sure you have the legal right to use them. Upload any images to your media library, never embed images hosted elsewhere. Some good resources to search for images licensed for reuse are:
  • CILIP has some excellent guidelines on how to write a blog post for their own Blogger Challenge, (hint, hint!). Some of the excellent advise they give is the following:

Write for screen reading, bearing in mind that people read differently on a screen compared to reading on paper. For instance:

Use sub-headings to break the blog into meaningful chunks of information

Try the inverted pyramid structure – start with the conclusion, cover the most important and interesting information first and provide more detail later in the piece

Permalinks

  • Bear in mind that WordPress will automatically create an URL for your posts based on the text you provide in the ‘Title’ field of each post. If your Title is too long, it will create a very long permalink. Long permalinks are a bad idea as they break more easily, even when using URL shorteners for social media sharing (on URL shortening, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening).
  • WordPress allows you to edit your URL (just under the blog post title field) so it’s not as long even when your title is long (long titles are not a great idea either, but sometimes you just have to). Just make sure your URL contains enough keywords. You can get rid of stopwords (like conjunctions and prepositions for example) that alre also included in the title and body of your post.

Pages

  • Most professional blogs will have at least one ‘About’ or ‘Bio’ page where you describe who you are and what the purpose of your blog is.
  • It is important you say who is behind the blog: you can give away as much or as little as you want bearing in mind one of the intentions of asking you to set up and maintain the blog is for you to practice creating and keeping a professional presence online.
  • For support on Pages, go here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/pages/. If you decide to have more than one page, think if what you need is another page or a category instead. (See below).

Categories and Tags

  • Think of Categories as the sections of a newspaper. I would suggest one main category for your blog, to be used for those posts that generally fit the description of your blog. You can create other categories if you want to use your blog to write about various, different topics.
  • Tags, on the other hand, are keywords describing the content of each of your posts.
  • Categories and tags can be the same term– but they fulfill different roles. Hierarchically cateogies are superior, at a web site level, and tags work at a lower, post-based level. For a simpler explanation go to http://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/categories-vs-tags/.

License

  • If content is available on the Web people will always-already want to share it or do something with it. Creative Commons provides free legal tools for online creators so they can license their work for various uses.
  • Creative Commons licenses complement copyright, so you retain all your authorship rights, whilst deciding which rights you will be granting your audience. To choose a license, go to http://creativecommons.org/choose/.
  • For blogs I recommend CC-BY or CC-BY-SA. You can copy the HTML and then add it to a Text Widget to the sidebar of your site.
  • If you want to know more about Creative Commons, you can download the guide I co-edited:

Collins, Hellen; Milloy, Caren; Stone, Graham; Baker, James; Eve, Martin; Priego, Ernesto (2014): Guide to Creative Commons for Humanities and Social Science Monograph Authors (OAPENUK 2013). figshare. http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.928467

Finally

 In recent years I have blogged about academic blogging a lot. I once called blogging “the utltimate form of collegiality” (I was younger and more optimistic). I also have various slideshows openly available online.

There’s way much more that can be say about blogging, and opinions about the best way of doing it are as varied as there are blogs. Some of it is pretty subjective.  After all, the fun part of blogging is the freedom it gives you. Blogging, however, is about publishing information as much as it is about organising information.

As an information science scholar I can’t help observing that blogs that have a coherent architecture, are search-engine aware and are updated periodically with consistent, engaging content are often, in my humble opinion, the best.

*Obviously I don’t always follow my own advice… I try though! ;-)