Forget Platform—Build a Bridge

Another great piece of writing advice from Allison K Williams. I read everything she writes. She’s always good value.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

There are three big myths about platform.

Myth #1: platform = social media followers

You may have seen writers on Twitter with statistics like “20.1K followers, 20K following.” Some writers build these numbers with “#writerlift” posts (everyone follows everyone else), or use apps to mass-follow hundreds of accounts, hoping they’ll follow back.

That’s not a platform. They have racked up numbers with people they can’t actually engage with. They are followed by people who clicked as reciprocation, not genuine interest.

Even truly impressive social media followings seldom translate to actual book sales. Social media numbers reflect, rather than cause, popularity.

Myth #2: platform = going viral

Only sometimes! If you’re writing memoir or nonfiction, writing a “hot essay” can get you a book deal. For literary fiction, a powerful short story in a great literary magazine can get you an agent.

Or it may not. You can’t control what’s going…

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Introducing the 2019 ‘Anything Is Possible’ List

I completely understand that this is a fancy ad for WordPress.com, but it’s also really inspiring to read the stories of people using the wordpress platform to do their own thing, build communities and make a difference in the world. Good stuff!

Introducing the 2019 ‘Anything Is Possible’ List

Time for a refresh

I’ve recently become a bit addicted to listening to podcasts. I’ve got quite a few favourites which I plan to share in upcoming posts. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been listening to a series called 31 days to build a better blog by Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame. I like listening to Darren because he’s Australian and he’s very down to earth. The series is aimed at helping people like me to improve their blogging practices. You can listen to an episode here.

Take a peek

In a recent episode Darren suggested that we conduct some user testing of our blogs to see what a new visitor really looks at when they arrive and how long they stay. You can get a real live stranger to do this via a free service called Peek. It’s really awesome and a bit confronting at the same time. You simply pop your website address into the box and a couple of hours later you get a recording of someone visiting your site for the first time.

Good advice

The result was not quite what I expected but also not too awful. I’m also mindful that this was just the view of one person and that another visitor might have had a completely different response. Their main criticism was that my blog was in need of a bit of freshening up. In other words, it was visually quite boring and a bit dull. On the upside, they liked the writing which made me happy. Since the whole point of starting this blog four years ago was to practice my writing, I was pleased to think that I might be improving.

The result

So here we have a fresh as a daisy new theme and a few new features such as my favourite posts. Let me know what you think. I’d love your feedback.

What have you been up to?

A couple of people have asked me why I haven’t written any posts lately and my immediate response is that I’ve been busy. Too busy to blog? Really?

Well, yes and no. While I have been very busy at work lately (end of year rush and all that), its also true that I’ve had a few moments of self doubt recently, as many of us do. Sometimes it strikes me that blogging is a very peculiar way to spend one’s time… After all, there are so many good books and articles to read, do I really need to contribute to your inbox which is probably already groaning under that weight of all those emails?

The answer is yes I do!

Why I write…

  1. In my last post I wrote about some of the reasons that people like to share their ideas, and in my case it’s because I think that interesting ideas need room to breathe and expand. A good idea can make you think differently about how you see the world, it can change the way to perceive yourself and it can help you grow. Writing helps me clarify my ideas and work through ideas.
  2. Blogging is also a great way to communicate with people all around the world. Some of my favourite writers live diverse (but ordinary) lives in all parts of the world. I would never have stumbled across them except through blogging. They bring light and shade into my world and make it richer and less narrow.
  3. Blogging is a great way to encourage people to learn something new and have a go. I truly believe that you should never stop learning and having this platform is a perfect vehicle for providing advice and encouragement to others. Its not that what I have to say is especially profound or special, its just a nice way to keep in touch with a bunch of random, but wonderful people. That’s you folks!

So if you are looking back on your year, I hope you give yourself credit for all the things you’ve achieved. They don’t need to be grand. It’s the small challenges that make up a life.

Have a happy Christmas and I’ll be back next year with some new ideas about simple design, improving your writing and learning new skills.

If you have any thoughts about topics that would interest you, I would love to hear from you, or you could just say hello and tell me how your year has been.

 

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Why do people share?

Last night I spoke at a community forum about the impact of digital technology on society. What a lovely bunch of interesting people were there. They asked such good questions.

A couple of people asked me why I started this blog and although I have written about this previously, I thought it might be interesting to look at the reasons why so many people love blogging. On the WordPress platform alone, there are 72 million blogs with over 400 million readers, so it’s quite a popular pastime.

Four reasons why people blog

Many people blog for validation. They want the world to know they exist and they want to get feedback from others to confirm that their ideas and opinions are valuable. People who write blogs for this reason can be a bit obsessed with the number of subscribers that they have. The more the better.  I don’t fit into this category, although I am always thrilled to bits when someone new signs up. I may not have a huge number of subscribers, but I am convinced you are all intelligent and interesting, and that matters more to me than sheer numbers.

Then there are the social bloggers. These are people, for example young mums, who might be find being at home with a baby a bit isolating. I saw a lovely ‘mummy blog’ the other day where women were sharing ideas about what to cook for dinner that would be easy, nutritious and that the kids would actually eat. This type of blog serves an important social function and can help get people make contact with others who might be in similar situations.

Thirdly, there are people who blog to promote themselves or their product. Sometimes they provide really good information and sometimes it’s just a thinly disguised sales pitch.

Other people blog because they love sharing information and ideas. This is the category I fit into. I think it comes from being a teacher – when I read something interesting, I often think ‘who can I share this with?’ and this blog gives me the perfect platform. Blogging also gives me the chance to clarify my thoughts and practise my writing, but most of all it gives me the opportunity to encourage other people to learn new skills and expand their horizons.

Should you start a blog?

It can be time consuming, but it’s fun and rewarding.  It’s also really easy, so if you think you have something to say you should give it a try!

 

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A curious mind is a wonderful thing

A curious mind is a wonderful thing

I’m just about to do something really brave (or silly, depending on how you look at it).

I’m transferring my blog from this WordPress.com site to a self-managed host. This shouldn’t affect you and shouldn’t make any difference to how we communicate, but it’s risky because I am quite likely to muck it up and lose all of my subscribers (that’s you) in the process. I sincerely hope this doesn’t happen, but if it does I wanted to thank you for coming along with me on my little journey over the past 12 months or so. It’s been fun and I’ve learnt a lot.

I thought that I would end the year with a few thoughts and some suggestions for next year, but first of all I might explain what I hoped to achieve by starting this blog and why I am moving it.

WHY DID I START THIS BLOG?

About 12 months ago I started running a training course called design basics (focused mainly on helping people to improve their PowerPoint slides) so I had plenty of ideas and content to share. Starting a blog seemed an ideal way to connect with a wider audience as well as providing some ongoing tips and advice for people who had completed the course. I decided that it was better to jump right in, rather than just thinking about it and WordPress.com made this quick and easy. It’s user friendly and it’s free. I recommend this as a way to start if you want to share your ideas or practice your writing.

I’ve covered a number of topics over the year, ranging from tips on clear writing, using colour and some other advice about improving your communication skills. I have a background in teaching communication skills, so communication design is just an extension of my interest in this area. I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments and feedback although at times, I have been at a bit of a loss to know what you might find useful and interesting, so I’ve just posted about stuff I find interesting and hope that it strikes a cord with some of you.

My main aim is to help people communicate clearly, whether this be in a PowerPoint presentation, a written report, a diagram, a graph or an image. I often observe people struggling to deliver information effectively and I really believe that there are some simple ways to achieve this. I think that writing and speaking clearly is important, especially when you are delivering messages that make a difference to people’s health, safety or wellbeing. I guess you could say that I am on a quest for clarity, both in what I do and say and in helping other people to be clear.

WHY AM I MOVING THIS BLOG?

The time has come to play with the grown ups and explore some new pastures. Moving this blog to a self-hosted site will give me more freedom to try new things and will be more of a challenge for me as I’ll need to learn a little bit more about websites, coding and other mysteries that pertain to managing a website. It’s an area I want to explore and I think jumping right in and giving it a go is a wonderful way to learn. It may be a disaster, but I hope not.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Do you have something exciting planned for 2013? I hope so. There are so many interesting things to do and learn that I can’t imagine how anyone could be bored. I recently discovered a wonderful organisation called Coursera where you can enrol in an online course on just about any topic that interests you. The courses are delivered by leading universities in the USA and are absolutely free. Amazing and wonderful.

I’d like wish you all the best for the year ahead and I hope you maintain your curiosity about the world and set yourself some goals that are achievable and fun.

See you next year!