Tips and Advice and A Reflection


Regular readers know that I’m a sucker for these types of posts.  I find them a great chance to do a little self-analysis about the content of this blog and I do hope that the articles find their way into your collection of resources to use in the your own blogging classroom.  While I’m a real supporter of getting students to blog, I think that it’s even more important for students to sit back and analyse their efforts after their done.

Today, from Digital Bloggers, I read the post Tips and Advice For Writing a Successful Blog.  Below, I’ve pulled the tips from the post and reflected on my own experiences.  As always, I’d appreciate your thoughts about what I’ve done right and what I’ve done or interpreted incorrectly.

I recognize that the slant from this post is towards those who are probably using blogging for business but aren’t we all selling something?

Here goes:

  • TIP! Find blogs within your niche and comment on their posts. If you are a user of Google Reader, have a different folder filled with other blogs you want to keep tabs on.
    • I like serendipity!  I rely on Zite and Rockmelt and various other tools to find new content for me.  During the school year, I’ll also follow the hashtag #comments4kids.  I am a regular reader of Ontario Edublogs (see link in the right sidebar) for content.  I do acknowledge that I’m not necessarily the greatest at regularly commenting on other blogs but I do read them.
  • TIP! Make sure that you add to your blog on a regular basis. If you want to grow your readership, it is necessary to inject fresh content regularly.
    • I do try my best to share one thought or idea on a daily basis.  The best thing I ever did for myself was to learn to blog offline.  That way, I can use the tool as a planning or just a collection area.  I’ll have a lot of ideas on the go and some eventually turn into posts.
  • TIP! Invite successful bloggers to write guest blogs for your site. This can increase your content’s quality substantially.
    • I’ve never done that.  Anyone want to write a post for me?
  • TIP! To increase your search engine rankings, continually post relevant, high-quality blogs. You will instantly have an increase of readers when it is easier to connect with your site.
    • That’s always a challenge.  Sometimes, I’ll write something that I think is the world’s greatest post and get no response.  Other times, it’s just a random thought and the idea takes off like crazy.  How do you know, in advance, if something will be “high quality”?
  • TIP! Try to write about topics that will always be in demand. It makes sense to create blogs around concepts that have longevity, because that will help bring in a larger audience.
    • I think this is relatively easy in education.  Great educators are always looking for new ideas, or a post that confirms that their current philosophy or practice is shared by someone else, or they can just answer the question “How did you learn that?” but pointing to a post that they’ve read.  
  • TIP! Be careful when deciding whether to use ads in a blog. This is a great way to make money, but your visitors may be turned off by ads.
    • I don’t accept advertising.  (Actually, nobody has ever asked so I’ve never had to deal with this)  Advertising that does appear here is generated by WordPress to pay their bills.  I’ve set up my own hosted site but prefer to model the free service that WordPress offers just to model to anyone that they can get into blogging for free.
  • TIP! Never underestimate the importance of content and promotion. Quality content and targeted promotion are the two elements that are probably the most important to a successful blog.
    • I do try to target education but I’ve always given myself license to write about whatever interests me at any point in time.
  • TIP! If you are utilizing pop-up windows, be sure to have them load after the main content of your site. This will ensure that readers will see your content before they see a stream of pop-up windows.
    • I hate pop-up windows and don’t use them.  I also have pop-up windows denied in all of my web browsers so I may actually miss others popups.
  • TIP! Higher quality viewers will come to the blog if you utilize strong backlinks, and you will also earn higher search engine rankings. If Google and other search engines see your page as authoritative, you will rank higher.
    • I’ve never been concerns about search engine ranking.  If you search for “dougpete”, you’ll find me.  Chances are, I’ll never be mentioned on those “Tops 6000 Education Bloggers” lists but I’m OK with that.  A lot of those articles contain links to blogs that haven’t been updated for a long time anyway so I question the value.  I have a core group of regular readers and I value that the most
  • TIP! Your aim for your blog should be to get your viewers to do what you want, when you want. Construct posts and upload videos that explain and demonstrate various ways of doings things for your visitors.
    • I would like to think I’m sort of along those lines.  I don’t necessarily care if you do what I do but I think that it’s good to always read about new things and then leave it to the reader to adopt or ignore according to their own needs.  The key is knowing that we live in an ever-changing world – there are awesome developers who are constantly creating and making available new and more enabling technologies that make things better for schools, teachers, and students.  Isn’t that what we’re here for?

There’s my latest self-analysis.  Thanks to digitalbloggers.com for the inspiration.

Rethinking RSS – Noowit Comes To Beta


Like many people, I feared that the end of the world was coming when Google announced that they would be retiring the use of their Google Reader.  After all, it had been the source of news for me for years now.  Some of the notable RSS feed that I read regularly appear right here on this blog over to the right and down a bit in the Blogroll.

I’ve highlighted these excellent resources but certainly have more that are pulled into my RSS reads.  They’re blogs, news services, Diigos, Delicious, and more.  When I’m reading something and like the quality of it or find that it’s contributed to my immediate learning, I immediately go hunting for the RSS or Atom feed and track it.  I even have included the feed from this blog in my reader just as a double check that everything is working as it should.  dougpete has paranoia, don’t you know?

Between Google Reader and NewsSquares in Google Chrome, I’ve always had a tonne of things to read and ponder on a regular basis.  These were my personal calls to action in terms of awareness, new learning, and consolidation of old learning.  So, I was concerned when the thought was that this service would go away.  I’ve downloaded my subscriptions from Google Takeout a few times just so that I don’t lose track of all of the resources that have been so helpful to me.

Somehow, it was comforting knowing that Stephen Downes was going through much of the same process.  He had a nice summary of what he thinks about the top replacement players here.

And like so many, I’ve been looking for alternative solutions.  As I blogged a couple of days ago, incorporating RSS into Hootsuite has been a great solution for me so far – on the computer.  I do do so much of my reading on my portables – it’s a great way to pass the time while waiting in line for appointments or lying in bed or on the couch or so many other places.  I’ve been playing around with Feedly and the new Digg as well.  However, even Feedly which seems to be everyone’s choice of reader is having problems.  You’ve heard of “failed whale”; how about a “failed cloud?”.  To their defense, everyone is looking for a solution.

2013-07-02 17.23.35

Every analytic, I’ve come to recognize that I really do most of my portable reading on Zite and Rockmelt.  Both have allowed for the importing of RSS but more importantly you can set your reading to a concept and not just a pre-defined feed.  This allows the services to discover content wherever there is a feed to scrape.  I’ve run into some very unique and interesting resources.  Zite doesn’t have a desktop version but Rockmelt does so that gives me a shot of serendipity when I need it.

But, recently, I was invited to play around with a pre-Beta version of Noowit.  Somehow, the best way I can describe it as combining the best of everything into a web application.  So far, it’s been very impressive.

Noowit

Like so many readers on the market, it imported my Google feed and let me “Discover” related content.  So, as a reader (and sharer), it performs very nicely.  There is another feature that I haven’t got to yet and that’s the ability to create my own Nootwit Magazine.  I’ve started but haven’t stuck to it long enough to generate something worth sharing yet.  For right now, it’s all about the discovery, reading, and sharing.

Like many programs of this type, you add categories and ideas.  Noowit claims to learn what you’re reading.  I’m hoping that once I get a chance to start my own “Mag” that helps discover more related and interesting content.  Plus, sharing is nice.  It has the feel of a paper.li to me.

Right now, I’m kind of fascinated by its navigation.  If there ever was a web app that works like a tablet app, this is it.  Navigation by mousepad feels and reacts just like I’d reached out and swiped the screen.  I wonder if the developers are programming with Windows 8 in mind.  The whole layout and preparation is interesting.  You can pick by author or category or sources.  There’s also a “cut the noise” setting that’s definitely going to take some playing with.  There is so much in this project and I know that I’m not taking the best advantage of it.

The whole experience, combined with what I’ve done in the past has convinced me that I’m in search of more than an RSS Reader.  In that regard, perhaps Google’s move has been good for the entire reading industry.  Perhaps we’ll become better and more diverse readers because of it.

Check out Noowit’s description:

and the best news….

What about you?  Are you looking for just a Google Reader replacement or do you want more?

Hoot Reading


Like many people I suspect, I’m on the search for a good replacement to the Google Reader when it stops operating on Canada Day.  For so long, Google Reader has been my go-to for news reading and I will really miss it.  But it is what it is and we’ll have to change.  I’ve installed Feedly on my computer and I’m actually go to go with that but I got sidetracked.

In my web browser, I have Hootsuite open all the time in a tab.  It may not necessarily be the open tab but it’s there should I have the need to take a look at what’s happening on Twitter.  When I discovered that Hootsuite had made RSS reading available, I had to give it a shot.  My first reaction is very positive.  Rather than having a separate application open for RSS reading, incorporating it into my existing social reading routine makes so much sense.

Here’s how I did it.

First, I had to get my Google Reader data.  It’s a step that everyone should do – you get it by going to Google Takeout and downloading your content.  The nice thing about this is it also lets you take control of your information.  The content comes down as a .zip file which you need to expand.  Inside, you’ll find a few files but the important one for this process is subscriptions.xml.  Got it!

Now, the standard Hootsuite installation doesn’t do the trick.  You need to download the Hootsuite Syndicator.  It’s part of the Hootsuite Hootlet for Google Chrome.  (Try saying that five times)

It installs itself into Hootsuite as an application.  (I already had the Evernote application installed)

Launching the Syndicator for the first time gives you the opportunity to import your subscriptions from your Google Reader.

Or, you could start from scratch/add even more.

Next step is to work with the Subscription Manager to look at your existing subscriptions.

Each blog that you’re monitoring or potentially monitoring has to be selected.  If you have them in groups, add a group or add the individual feeds.  I actually liked this process.  It reminded me of how much I have chosen.  (I did decide to not activate a couple)

And you’re off!  Refresh the column or let Hootsuite do it based upon whatever time interval you have set and the reading resumes…right in your social media browser!

You’ll undoubtedly want to play around with the configuration options to make the installation your own.  What is particularly nice is the age of sharing pops up when you cursor over a story.

Favourite it, share it (Yeah!), mark as read, or mark it to read later.

Clicking an individual story opens a reader…

Story

 

With a hot link to go to the original story in a new tab.  I like this feature.  I don’t tend to sit down and read stories one by one.  I tend to read the title, consider the source, read the snippet and then open the story in a new tab if I want more.  Once I have a bunch of tabs open, only then will I do the complete article reads.

The implementation is quite nice.  There will be critics, I’m sure, that will indicate that it doesn’t have the full set of features previously found in the full blown Google Reader.  Individual users will have to make their own decision but, for me, the fact that it’s just another column in one of my most used applications is really appealing.