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« Don't blog the cat unless | Main | TechProof column »

Don't blog the cat and other virtues

One of the best/worst features of Google Reader is the ability to "star" blog entries for easy retrieval. My list of starred items usually runs between 15 and 50 entries that I just know I'll get back to some day.

Among those starred items have always been a few Kathy Sierra "Creating Passionate Users" posts. (I wish she would start writing again.) Anyway, I re-read her post "Seven Blog Virtues (for a Global Microbrand)" and was glad I did so. (The post is actually a downloadable slideshow in pdf.)

Sierra has always been about marketing and increasing one's visibility (her job), but most of the virtues she writes about in this post just seem so applicable to all of use who write for other professionals about our profession regardless of medium. Her "virtues" and a few memorable snippets:

You should always blog for yourself, but if you want more readers, you should also blog for them.

Virtue 1: Be Grateful Our readers’ time and attention is a gift. Out of all the possible things that our readers could be doing (or reading), the fact that anyone comes to our blog at all is incredible. We must be grateful and try to give something of value in return.
Virtue 2: Be Humble
Virtue 3: Be Patient
Virtue 4: Be Generous Teach people to do what you do. Don’t hoard your “secret sauce.”
Virtue 5: Show Respect Don’t post for quantity, post for quality. If you don’t have something that you believe is worth the reader’s time, think twice about posting.
Virtue 6: Be Motivating
Virtue 7: Be Brave If everyone loves everything you write, it’s probably mediocre.

Don't blog the cat. It's not about you.

As an English teacher, I always reminded my student writers to keep purpose and audience in mind when writing. It's advice I ought to give myself now and then as well. Too often I find myself writing for simply personal amusement rather than writing to help my readers or the profession.

But it will be tough not to "blog the grandsons" and forgive me if I slip now and then.

Sierra's post is worth a look... 


Picture from Kathy Sierra's  "Seven Blog Virtues (for a Global Microbrand)" slide show.

For an op-ed POV see the next day's post. 

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Reader Comments (2)

I don't think I agree with the "don't blog the cat" point. I have run posts about my cats in the past, and I will in the future. There's a reason for that.

Sierra writes, "It's not about you." In this, she is at least partially wrong. It is about you. Not completely, of course. But the personal point of view is important.

What distinguishes the blog media from the traditional media is the idea that each expression has a point of view. Our knowledge of a concept or an event is obtained from combining these points of view.

Knowing about the blog author helps us understand that point of view. When I say "I saw a cat on the streets of Madrid" the meaning is different when you know that I am a cat person and love cats.

Suppose you knew that I was one of those people who hates cats and calls then "house rats" (yeah, I've actually heard the phrase). Then my observation of a cat on the streets of Madrid conveys very different information about the city.

The blog is an expression of a relation between myself and whatever I am talking about. As such, the personal part of a blog is essential. You'll find in her archives that even Kathy Sierra includes a lot about the personal. Her experience of climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, for example.

Writers who do not reveal something of themselves (and their pets, if their pets are important to them) are giving us only half the equation. They are presenting statements and asking us to accept them as objective fact. There is no reason why we should do this, and indeed, even some reason to be suspicious of such an approach.
April 29, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Downes
I think perhaps Kathy was talking about the boringly mind numbing -- "I went to the refrigerator and ate leftovers" followed by "I went out to the movie" and continuing with an ongoing diatribe about minuscule points of life.

I agree that once a person knows that a person is an authority or like me (not an authority but learning and sharing) that the personal is interesting, but to a limit!

I think there is a certain personal to professional ratio that readers will accept before they tune out -- what is it? I'm not sure.

I even factor this in when picking my group to subscribe to in twitter! If they mostly twitter about personal and do it too often, I usually don't add them to my list!

Great discussion here!
May 5, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterVicki Davis

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