Strategic Commenting: No blog is an island

Salvatore88, via Flickr (CC license)
This is not your blog.

I do a lot of blog and conversational media coaching, and one of the most common laments I hear is “no one visits / links to / comments on my blog!”

The solution is simple once you wrap your brain around the concept of conversational media.

If you view your blog as part of a public conversation, rather than a mere publication, then an easy way to attract more interest and interaction becomes obvious. I call it “strategic commenting.”

Here’s how it works…

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What to Do BEFORE You Start to Blog

Joe Shlabotnik, via Flickr
Want to try business blogging? Don’t just dive in.

You’ve probably heard that blogging is good for your business. If you haven’t already started blogging — WAIT! Leaping into this medium cold is the most common and damaging error I’ve seen.Before you do anything else, figure out which groups you wish to engage in a public conversation.

Next, figure out where they already spend time online…

Go where they are, and start following their existing conversations. Depending on your niche, this part can be trickier than it sounds. It means spending time searching through blog search engines like Technorati and IceRocket to find blogs that are already succeeding in attracting attention from your core communities.

It also means exploring other types of online media — bulletin boards, e-mail lists, wikis, virtual environments (such as Second Life), and citizen media sites (such as to find good matches. Web sites of local or regional mainstream media also can be useful to watch if they allow comments and foster public discussion in your core communities.

The ideal outcome of this research is a short list (just 3-5 blogs or other sites) that you should start reading on a regular basis…

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Folding back into

I’m folding this other blog back into Contentious.

For the past couple of years I’ve maintained a separate weblog, The Right Conversation, focused on the emerging and fast-moving field of conversational media — an enduring passion and professional focus of mine. However, it’s proven to be too difficult for me to maintain both weblogs. So I’ve decided to fold The Right Conversation back into Contentious.

I’ll be updating content from that blog and republishing it here at Contentious, including all comments, so that all the content will reside in one place and be accessible by a single site search engine.

What do you think of this move? Please comment below. And thanks to everyone who’s been reading The Right Conversation.

Blogging: My cure for brainstipation

Louise Fitzhugh
“I’m taking notes on all those people who are sitting over there.”
“Because I’ve seen them and I want to remember them!”

I learned a lot from the recent hiatus of Contentious. Mostly I learned that I really do need to have this blog. It’s not just my voice, and a key source of my sense of connection.

It helps me think. I mean that quite literally.

I didn’t plan to put Contentious on hiatus. It happened because switching hosts and upgrading to the latest WordPress caused a lot of technical glitches. I had good help fixing many of them, but some of them would take more time and effort than I had available. I felt overwhelmed, and was embarrassed to blog when the site was having problems. I felt like I “should” fix those problems first, and then start blogging again.

Bad, bad strategy. Basically, this led to the accumulation of a lot of guilt, shame, and frustration. So even though I wasn’t posting and I was avoiding fixing the tech glitches, I was thinking about Contentious every day — and seeing it as a problem, not an outlet or resource.

When you start seeing your blog as a problem, that’s a big problem. It means it’s time to either change what you’re doing, or stop. I knew I didn’t want to stop, I just couldn’t find the motivation to keep going in the face of shame and guilt. Finally, with encouragement from some smart women at BlogHer, I decided to just keep going.

All of this reminded me of Harriet the Spy…

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Jack Vinson on the “me collector”

Jack Vinson
Knowledge management guru Jack Vinson had a lot of advice for scattered content creators like me.

In response to my post yesterday, I want one place for all my content, knowledge management guru and very cool guy Jack Vinson (who I finally got to meet at BlogHer) posted an elaborate list of almost-options that address various aspects of this puzzle.

See: The elusive me collector. Excerpt:

“The basics of the problem are pretty familiar: content I generate is scattered across many websites of varying degrees of openness. Blogs, wikis, forums, social networks, paid publications, mailing lists, photos, videos, podcasts, … But there isn’t a place where all of that stuff comes together. At the high level the needs are: automatic; item-level controls; permanence; tags; re-mixability.

“I don’t think anything I’ve run across, beyond your standard feed aggregator, has the ability to do something with the resulting aggregated content. Amy suggested that she would like to be able to categorize / tag the content, selectively share it, re-mix it, analyze it, feed it out to something else…. Essentially, ‘it’s my stuff, let me play with it.'”

Yeah. What he said.

Oh, yes, of course I checked — and I now own the domain I’ll give it away to anyone who can prove they can put together a tool that does what I asked for. Go for it, geeks!

Could blogs help boys catch up in school?

CleverClaire, via Flickr (CC license)
Could class blogs help motivate boys to catch up in school?

I just listened to the podcast of the July 27 edition of Colorado Matters, a show from Colorado Public Radio. The segment Some Districts Move Toward Gender Education. CPR’s Dan Meyers interviewed Kelley King, Director of Education at the Colorado Springs-based Gurian Institute, which offers gender education training to teachers.

The gist of their discussion was that boys tend to underperform in K-12 education, largely (according to King) because US K-12 teaching approaches have historically been more geared to the way girls tend to learn, get motivated and behave.

King said that one pervasive problem she saw as a teacher and principal in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) was that “We were having problem getting boys to rewrite and revise something that they’d already written. Once they wrote something, they were pretty much done with it. We realized we had to have something more motivating — which would be bigger audiences, pleasing someone other than just the teacher. …We know that boys aren’t as inclined to just want to please the teacher.”

BVSD experimented with approaches such as having students prepare work that they would read at an assembly, or to older children, and found that this did improve boys’ motivation and performance. Apparently, girls’ performance did not suffer.

This got me wondering about blogs…

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