Friday, 27 April 2012

A Year in the Blogosphere

I'm in danger of missing the boat with this blog, so I'm going to quickly finish it off and publish it before its 'tell-by' date has expired.

This is my 21st blog (It was going to be my 20th, but attending the recent L&DConnect UnConference in London on Tuesday forced my hand with another blog instead).  No big deal in itself, but I am writing this as part of my reflection on the fact that I have now been blogging for one whole year.  I posted my first blog - on the subject of posting my first blog - on 14th April 2011.  

So, at the risk of disappearing up an ever-decreasing orifice of blogging blogs about blogging, I thought I'd review how it's going, and share what I've learned thus far, in case anyone else out there is in two minds about starting.

Feel the Fear...

...and do it anyway.  I procrastinated for a long time before actually committing myself to blogging.  I confess to not having been a great blog-reader beforehand - having only just got the hang of micro-blogging on #Twitter - but I noticed that many of the people I followed in my Twitter #PLN (Personal Learning Network) were already blogging.  So I started reading their blogs and commenting, mentioned on Twitter that I was toying with the idea and getting inspiration from their postings and suddenly, I got a flood of encouraging comments back from those same people - and others - suggesting that it was time I bit the bullet.

Biting the Bullet...

I'd been keeping a document going of blog ideas, fleshing them out as I could, so I felt that I might be ready to have a go.  So I crowdsourced recommendations for a hosting site (i.e. I asked the question on Twitter).  Again, the wisdom of the crowd was generously, quickly and effectively given, and I settled on #Blogger.  Nice n' easy interface, no complicated web presence requirements.  I signed up, copied & pasted my first blog content into the window, published - and I was out there on the blogosphere!  I tweeted the fact, along with the link to my new blog page, and to my surprise and delight, people went to my site, read my blog, commented on it and retweeted the link to my new page!

Holding Hands...

Apparently there were several of us taking our first steps into blogging and we quickly established a couple of Twitter Hashtags (which seem to have fallen by the wayside as we've all gained confidence) #bloggingnewbies, followed a couple of months later by #bloggingimprovers.  We published our blogs and announced them to the twitterati with either of those hashtags and then we knew to go and check out ch others' latest and offer our support/feedback.

I want to acknowledge here and thank a great bunch of people who offered their support and advice then, and continue to do so now - Mandy Randall-Gavin (@ MandyRG), Kate Graham (@ KateGraham23), Stephanie Dedhar (@ StepanieDedhar), Lisa Johnson (@ TuppyMagic), Craig Taylor (@ CraigTaylor74) and Colin Steed (@ ColinSteed) - all of whom write and publish their own excellent blogs, which I thoroughly recommend to you.

It's not a one-way street...'s a two-way street!  Engage, don't pontificate.  I am thrilled when someone takes the trouble to read one of my blogs in the first place, but even more excited when they comment.  I will always try to respond (room for development here, I think) and then we are in dialogue.  A recent blog by David Goddin (@ ChangeContinuum) touched very effectively on this subject 

Review and Reflect...

I've gone back and re-read my 20-blog output over the last year, and I see a definite change in them.  My early blogs were a tad forced, contrived even, when I felt unsure of my own voice or what I wanted to talk about ("Don't over-think them" was the advice from a seasoned blogger here).  However, when I was inspired or - as importantly - energised or empassioned about the topic, they flowed more naturally and with more authenticity.  People notice that kind of stuff, and comments and feedback from my great #PLN confirm that fact ("It read much more 'conversational' and as such, I found it easier to read" was a recent comment from another experienced blogger).

Oh, one thing I do think I do well (feel free to challenge) - I write great, catchy Titles. I like puns and I try to make my headlines intriguing, walking the middle line between being too clever or too pompous.  Like I said, feel free to challenge that one!

My key learning points?

I've written some of them already as the sub-headings in this blog.  But here they are in a convenient, take-away sized bullet list.
  • Feel the Fear
  • Bite the Bullet
  • Maintain a potential topic list
  • Hold Hands
  • It's not a one-way street
  • Invite your Friends
  • Follow other blogs
  • Review and Reflect
I'm no expert here - I'm sure you will have other tips.  Let's add to and share this list.  

So here we are; the end of my 21st - but not my last - blog.  Thanks for taking the time to read this one. Now let's talk...


  1. Fantastic, happy blogging birthday Niall! I completely agree that it was so helpful to have the support and encouragement of our #bloggingnewbies and #bloggingimprovers when we started out around the same time. I always enjoy reading your posts and look forward to many more of them....and I've now realised I haven't blogged for a month so best get my skates on to keep up with you!

    P.S Enjoyed your Brighton pics this evening.

  2. As a fellow blogger, albeit for a scant few months, I resonate with your thoughts. Each and every point you make is what I've gone through the past few months. I didn't have anyone to hold my hand, but I have a group of trusted peers who help me with that, who don't seem to mind when I ask them to preview before I publish.

    I really love how you break your post into headings that independently tell a story. I find this useful, although I haven't used as many headings. It helps both writer and reader to focus attention on the story; story is extraordinarily important in blogs!

    Great post!

  3. Great inspiring blog Niall. I've just recently started blogging so nice to see someone who has stuck at it. I loved your comment about your first blogs feeling a bit forced - mine do too but its get a little easier now.

    I hope to be celebrating my "21st" next year too..but I better get a move on!

  4. Kate, that's what I love about Twitter - the collaborative and supportive learning space we create amongst ourselves.

    Tom, really appreciate your kind comments. As an ex-actor and long-time trainer, I've always found that stories resonate best, Incidentally, I read your blog on SoMe this morning and commented therein.

    Fiona, it is a commitment, isn't it? I've just hit a purple patch - three blogs in seven days! That's really unusual for me; it normally takes me at least a month to get one out, and even then it sometimes feels like extracting teeth. I keep a blog ideas list in Evernote and add to that as ideas strike me; I find that helps them to grow in my mind before I commit to forming and posting them out into the blogosphere. Keep it up. I look forward to reading them.

  5. Niall, what a great anniversary blog & thanks for the blog mention! Your main learning points resonate well for a few reasons...

    Feel the Fear & Bite the Bullet -> absolutely. It's meant to be exposing and that's how you share your authenticity. "You get a wonderful view from the point of no return"!

    Maintain a potential topic list -> this is something I've failed at... Somehow a list saps the energy for me... yet I suspect my posts would be better formed if I did this. I'm going to have to try to do this again and see if I can eat that frog.

    Hold Hands - #bloggingnewbies & #bloggingimprovers are great ideas - something I wish I'd accessed a year ago...

    It's not a one-way street -> we're so on the same page here! Yet my experience is that many "popular" bloggers are not. I think this says a lot...

    Invite your Friends -> I've found some great support, reflection & inspiration for blogging when discussing things with friends who blog. Curiously, this doesn't happen so much when I talk to friends who don't blog. There's something about channelling energy here I think...

    Follow other blogs -> Agree fully but practically I've found it increasingly hard to work out how to follow all the good blogs out there. I think there is legitimacy in blogging on a common, shared blog. It's the authorship that counts and the common space makes it easier for the reader...

    Review and Reflect -> similarly I did a year end review blog and an anniversary blog to help me do this. Friends, blog comments and reading stats also help here though I think stats are probably a double edged sword... beware!

    Another aspect which I've started to use to motivate and shape my blogs is "Mind the edge". I keep this in mind to encourage my posts to be edgy and to create perspective. It's also meant to be slightly scary!

    Thanks for sharing & looking forward to more blogs.

    1. Great comments David; thank you.

      Re. Topic lists - it's not a structured thing for me; it's as an idea strikes me and I want to capture it there and then - the hard work comes later in deciding whether or not to flesh it out and in doing so.

      And I love 'Mind the Edge'. I'm havin' that!

  6. Really enjoyed this blog Niall, and thanks for the sharing of your learning. I have been a reader of others blogs for a while, and it has felt a little voyeuristic at times, just watching and making the occasional comment, so I'm feeling more confident having just written my first - felt the fear as you have said!
    I am noticing David's point about the support and inspiration, from those who blog, and those who don't. It's an interesting dynamic. Anyway, look forward to another great year.

  7. Congratulations Niall on your one year anniversary. I'm pleased to have discovered your blog today, and I' sorry I didn't get to meet you properly at LDCU last Tuesday. There will be a next time I am sure. I like your blogging tips, one year on. V useful. I'm two weeks in so I'm in my blogger's honeymoon right now. I'm loving it so far. I've been keeping that topic list for ages, and composing blog posts in my head when I'm driving. So it was actually a relief to get going. Also, I like your tip about inviting your friends. So far I've been ever so happy to see comments from all kinds of people - the majority are non bloggers. Variety is something I love so it is super to get that from commenters.
    I like your bio right at the top - it's really good to see that info right up front rather than needing to delve into an About page. Good UX! :-)
    David - 'minding the edge' is a useful piece of advice as well. Thank you.

  8. Meg,
    It's about stepping up and being seen, isn't it? I've always been reticent about keeping a diary or a journal, but blogging seems to give it a point now.

    I read a blog today by a chap in America who voice records his blogs when driving and transcribes them later. Might be something for you there if you're already composing them in your head while in the car?

    Thank you both for taking the time to find, read and comment on my blogs. I'll be looking out for your blogs in the future now.