Abstract to Reality: What’s On Your Page?

SlashDot is a technical site, news come from readers and a few editors
SlashDot is a technical site, news come from readers and a few editors

After the planning, research, design, and all the related “meta” work, eventually you need to get something to the page. I call this part “Abstract to Reality”. Simply put, whatever you need to describe, market, sell, explain, support… has to be put into words, pictures and movies. To most of us, who have not published a book or an article, who are not great amateur photographers, and can’t hold a video camera steady for ten seconds, the first step is the hardest. Even if you are confident in your own specialty area (a domain expert), even if you read lots of blogs and can write better, publishing for the first time is a mix of excitement and fear. To many, just seeing their own words “on the web” is an amazing experience.

Once you get over the early stages of publishing, comes the real work. Here is where outside help can make all the difference. Once you maintain a blog or a site, you need to keep it fresh, interesting, and most of all in people’s faces. The first stage is to create or find content: text, pictures, and videos. The process of breaking down an idea or a message into small pieces, pages, links, pictures, seems like the hardest part to some. If you are describing a product it’s not hard. If you have an organization with a message, like a non-profit environmental group, or a site with technology news for geeks, keeping a flow going is sometimes a matter of technique and getting community participation.

Learning From Social Media: Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In

The current popular web communication format are social media sites. Here you can see great examples. NASA uses pictures and short text explanations on Google+. The posts use simple non-technical language to explain the basics of the picture, on the NASA site (or another one), they give more complete technical details. NASA Google+ stream also uses stories from related sites like the European Space Agency and Caltech JPL (which also includes JPL’s Spitzer space telescope). Essentially, NASA’s social media effort leverages “content” from many sources that may interest followers. This is a great example to follow if you are a government agency or an independent organization (NGO). You don’t have to be a big organization to use social media effectively. On Linked-In, Darren Rowse from Pro-Blogger (a popular blog) has a nice group, called “Pro-Blogger”. While Rowse, is popular and somewhat of a “domain expert”, his group statistics reports just short of  9,000 members, between 250 and 100 comments per week and between 20 to 100 new discussions per week. Not necessarily a “big” group or lots of effort, yet a nice way to attract Linked-In users.

Abstract to Reality: What’s Next?

If you are still wondering what to write about and how to start, you are not alone. There are many different techniques to get started. This also includes either learning new skills or getting experience with some help. In the traditional publishing world, newspapers, magazines, and corporate marketing, internships and entry positions are still a good way to get started. Blogging covers a wide range of writing and skills. A financial blogger for the Wall Street Journal with a Ph.D. in economics is not a position with the same qualification as a gossip blogger on the Huffington Post. The world of traditional writing is adopting the blog format. Not always in the same way or the same spirit as the original blog pioneers expected (or wanted, more on this on a later post). I did speak with a few traditional publication blogger interns. Some were strong in their fields and were making the shift to publication, some were writing (i.e. literature) graduates looking to get into the traditional publication world through blogging. Some would say, this is getting into the writing business through the back door. Either way, this is a good way to get started.

A different approach to getting started seriously is through training or “Just Doing IT” (as the Nike commercial goes.) In blogging this may be simply starting a blog on Blogger or WordPress (this site) without anybody’s permission. To many who are domain experts or have interest in a field, this method is simple. Within a few hours you can have a blog with a post and get started in configuring and promoting your writing. This is also a way to promote your pictures, videos, or other content formats (graphics, caricatures, comics, etc.) The Blogosphere also has adopted strong “guest blogger” practice. This means writing posts on someone else’s blog. It usually means a domain expert writing on a popular blog. When you start out, you may want to establish your credentials and gain skills and habits. This may mean getting into the habit of writing daily and publishing weekly. It may also may mean gaining skills in writing, editing, photography, or graphic editing. When you are producing content on a regular basis, the production flow needs to match your reputation and your ability. Even in the non-internet world, writing high quality material on a regular basis is crucial to many professions. Blogging gives you the opportunity to gain skills and habits without the pressure of a professional job. Whichever way you choose to go, or even pick a middle path, just remember how hard it is to start some times. Even if you are a bold and action kind of gal, you may still need some help or a small nudge. Blogging is not a difficult, yet there are some differences from the traditional writing and reporting world.

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