Writing in public – A review

Looking back over the past 9 weeks, I feel that my approach to writing in public has drastically changed compared to my initial posts published on  this blog early in 2013. The most noticeable difference in my blogging strategy is my awareness that I am writing not only for my university lecturers, tutors and peers, but the general public, with potentiality for a global reach. In tackling weekly topics introduced to us in the subject ‘Media Audience and Place’, I beared in mind that by blogging I was participating in the same aspects we were discussing in class. Some of which included multitasking, using media in both public and private spaces and staring at multiple screens. While a rewarding learning experience, the past 9 weeks have not come without some challenges particularly tackling the weekly research topics critically, not taking facts at first hand and interacting with my public audience. Through my efforts to overcome these challenges I feel my writing style has improved and I have developed a blog that does not focus on weekly posts as just a piece of homework, but as representation of my profile as an online, public writer.

My first port of call as I began blogging was to remove myself from the ‘schoolgirl’ impression this blog may have given my audience. I achieved this through updating my About page. I replaced statements such as, “this blog will be used to complete several assignments over the course of my university Communications and Media degree,” with, “Thinking deeper about the media we consume and how that affects how we interact with each other is a passion of mine.” The second statement identifies this blog as a reflection of my interests and became a cornerstone for my approach to blogging this semester.

I took the aspects of each weekly topic, which I found most interesting and adapted them to my own understanding. This attitude towards blogging was fostered by advice from blogger Adii Pienaar who says to “write for yourself first,” finding this technique allowed him to enjoy the process of blogging through focusing on his own ideas about a topic. I was particularly proud of how I applied this strategy to my week 8 post, Someone please think of the Children!’  I took that week’s topic and applied it to worries within my own family about gaming. Through thinking critically about  the 2013 legislation of an R18+ classification for video games and reflecting on my own observations in light of literary research,  I concluded it has not been as successful as anticipated.

Another aspect I felt allowed me to use this blog as a reflection of my own experiences was being able to conduct my own research for the weekly posts. Two posts in particular stand out for me, ‘What’s on Telly?’ and ‘In our own Little Digital Bubbles.’ In preparation for writing both blogs I took notes either in interviewing an individual or my own observations of people in public. I found this strategy of looking to real-world evidence relative to the weekly topics allowed me to engage more with subject content as well as make the blog appear more personal.

The personalisation of my blog in order to attract a greater following proved to be one of the most challenging aspects. Through site stats I was shown that people, from all over the world, were visiting my blog however a lack of comments on the posts told me that people were not interacting with it.  On a positive note, over the course of the past 9 weeks, ‘Off the Top of My Head’ had reached the milestone of over 60 followers. Barrie Gunter (2009) suggests that the main feature distinguishing a blog is its interactive nature with an audience. He claims this blogger-audience relationship is formed through making “private disclosures become public property.” While writing my blog I interpreted this through ensuring I expressed I had a conversational tone giving my audience the impression that they’re receiving an insight to my own personal take on a topic.

Capture

‘Off the Top of my Head’ Top Views by country site statistics

One aspect about blogging I found I utilized effectively was my use of tags. I paid careful attention to the concepts I rose in each post and tailored a list of at least 20 tags to try and obtain a larger audience reach. Perhaps some strategies I could apply to blogging in the future to build an audience could include making the posts appear more interactive with more videos and questions posed to the audience as well as shortening the length of the posts. Proof-reading service, Scribendi suggests bloggers should keep their posts as short as possible so the audience is not overwhelmed by the content and will be more likely to remain on your site.  The majority of my posts over this semester reached the 800 word limit and as I learned while writing ‘Have you been paying attention,’ people are multitasking so much online that they have little time to read a long post and obtain enough information to want to comment on what they have read. I can avoid this obstacle in the future and tighten my writing by:

  • Writing in active voice.
  • Making use of bullet points to organise ideas.
  • Writing in simple language.

What’s more, I find one area I must improve on is editing and proof-reading each post prior to publication.  I found in my efforts to always meet the weekly post deadline well in advance came at the expense of my spelling and grammar. Although I felt it was beneficial for my writing to write as quickly as the ideas flowed into my mind, most of my posts were edited by my eyes only. As a result, after staring at the screen for a number of hours, I missed important typing and grammar errors which made the posts at times appear messy and it tended to complicate the ideas I tried to express. In the future I intend treat each time I publish a post as an assignment submission, ensuring no spelling or grammar errors will lower my grade. I applied this technique to the most recent posts on the blog and found that by saving the post as a draft and getting a peer to proof-read before publishing was helpful.

In terms of my blog design, I kept it colour co-ordinated and clean. Overall I feel my blog has a professional appearance and it is easy to navigate, with custom menus. I used the graphic creating platform Canva to create a free logo for the blog as well as a header image that appears relevant to the area of communication and media studies.

In summary, through this task of writing in public I have gained a greater awareness of my public audience and have learnt important strategies required to obtain their input and interaction.

References:

Gunter, B 2009, ‘Blogging – private becomes public and public becomes personalised,’ Aslib Proceedings, vol 61, no 2, pp 120-126

 

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