While we’re not the most prolific bloggers out there, Aaron and I do put a fair bit of content into this space each week. For a while there, we were putting up five posts a week plus a collection of links each Saturday. But work commitments, side projects, family (remember, Aaron became a dad a little over a year ago), speaking engagements, and the need for some downtime got in the way.
Our current schedule is manageable, but we’ve had to make a few tweaks to the way in which we post the words and ideas in this space. Those tweaks have made the process of writing and posting a lot more efficient. On top of that, we really believe that the changes will help us scale up when the time comes.
Here’s a quick overview of how DMN Communications approaches blogging.
While you mainly see my name on the posts here, believe it or not this blog is a team effort. We don’t have editorial meetings (although I think we should). But Aaron and I do maintain a list of topics in Google Docs. We continually add to the list, and discuss some of the more interesting or wild ideas. Sometimes, we throw ideas out. Others, we move lower down the list.
As anyone who blogs, or writes anything else, knows: ideas come from everywhere. We try to get as many ideas on to the list as possible. That said, the list isn’t The List. Other ideas come to us, and we write those up first.
Writing the posts
This is where we diverge. Quite a bit, actually. Aaron likes the editing interface within WordPress; me, not so much. He’ll either write complete posts in that interface or start drafts that either he completes or on which we collaborate. Aaron also starts, or writes complete, posts in Google Docs.
On the other hand, I like to do a lot of my work offline. It might be with my notebook computer. It might be with my netbook. Removing the distraction of the Internet helps me further focus on what I’m writing. As for where I tap out my blog posts, I do the job in a text editor — either Emacs or Gedit. I use Markdown, which is lightweight markup language. It’s easier to use that, then convert the results to HTML, than it is to write solely in HTML. And since I’m dealing with text files, it doesn’t matter what operating system I’m using. As long as there’s a text editor I can’t go wrong.
Of course, we both have a WordPress client installed on our BlackBerry smartphones.
For worse, I think, we don’t always give each other feedback on our posts. That happens for a variety of reasons, of which ego isn’t one of them. And that lack of feedback is unfortunate. I’ve found that the posts which pass between us tend to be a lot better, not only because there’s another set of eyes but also another set of ideas and angles is brought to bear on a post.
Quality and such
We try to make sure that what we’re writing is informative, interesting, and useful. But as with any type of writing, the quality of what we put in this space can vary. While I don’t think we’ve ever written any really bad posts, some haven’t been as good as others.
Why? Any number of reasons. We might not have been as engaged with the topic of a post as we wanted to or should have been. Fatigue plays a role — sometimes, we’re writing late at night or early in the morning. In some cases, we rush to get something out. We try to have posts prepared at least a week or two in advance, but sometimes other things get in the way and we have to cut a corner or two in order to meet our self-imposed publishing schedule. And to think I didn’t want to get into daily journalism because I thought I couldn’t handle the deadline pressure …
One thing that both Aaron and I find interesting is that we have similar voices while blogging. I guess we’ve written enough together that some aspects of our written style have rubbed of on each other. And on a team blog, that’s a good thing.
You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been including images in our posts for the last few months. Doing that is an effort to try to add a little more colour and style to each post. Plus, if used properly, the images break up the text nicely.
We don’t just pick random images. They need to have something to do with the post in question. Usually, the images we choose work well. Sometimes … well, let’s just say an image seemed like a good idea at the time. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Some people have asked us where we get the images. We have a good collection of stock photos that we can dip into. And, yes, we’ve paid for the ones we’ve had to pay for. If there’s nothing suitable, we turn to our favourite sources of free images: stock.xchng, Morguefile, and PhotoXpress. In the rare instances those sources turn up nothing, then we go to pay sites like Dreamstime, StockXpert, or iStockPhoto.
Both Aaron and I enjoy blogging. It’s a great way to share what we know and have learned, to express opinions (even if they’re unpopular), and to connect with other people in our wacky line of work. Sure, we’d like to blog more. And maybe on a wider range of topics. That may or may not come one day.
Still, I think we can be proud of what we’ve posted in this space. It’s been a lot of fun doing it, and will continue to be fun. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be reading these words.
How do you blog? Feel free to share your story by leaving a comment.