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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Best Practices for UU Bloggers

UU Growth and Media Consultant Peter Bowden has asked UU bloggers to answer a survey re their blogs - again or for the first time. I'm a great hater of surveys, but since this one at least doesn't use Likert Scales for our answers, I decided to play nice.

1. Why do you blog? What goals do you have for your blog?
I think of my blog as a publicly available journal, a place to explore ideas and aesthetic activities. Since it is public, this necessarily includes exploring these ideas and activities within and in response to community. I consider that my ideas are part of larger discussions and explorations of the communities to which I belong. I don't expect to change people's minds, but I do expect that I might have modest influence as someone participating in the conversation.
2. Who is your intended audience?
When I first started blogging a year and 4 months ago, I expected that I would be occasionally read by a handful of members of my congregation. Over the course of that time, that has shifted. Depending on the topic of my blog post, I expect UU readers of my specifically UU-related posts from across the US, Canada, and Mexico, and am aware of occasional hits from the UK and from Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsv√°r), Romania. Since I publish poetry on the same blog, I expect those posts will be read both by UUs who follow the UUpdates link and by participants in various poetry groups who follow my links posted on the group sites. Those posts are typically viewed by people across North America, Europe, Turkey, India, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.
3. Who owns your blog? Does it belong to you as individual or to your congregation or other organization?
Me.
4. How frequently do you post?
185 posts in 10 months + one day of 2009, 120 posts in seven months + three days in 2010 before this post. No goal of frequency. I write, for the most part, when I think I have a thought I want either to express or explore.
5. What is the tone of your blog?
Earnest, with occasional comic relief - like me.
6. What steps do you take to make sure that your blog is a safe space, both for you and for other participants? Do you have a code of conduct?
In the sidebar, I announce a comments policy, stating that I moderate comments for the purpose of making sure I don't miss seeing a comment but that any comment that is not abusive and does not hijack the thread will be approved and that I welcome comments that are critical of my positions. I believe this is more than sufficient. So far, I have deleted only one abusive comment and only a couple that were off topic enough that I considered them in the hijacking category. I do not believe I need to tell my readers how to behave. If their comments go too far, they will not appear on my blog. No code of conduct required. We're mostly adults here.
7. What kinds of boundaries do you observe around confidentiality?
I never intentionally divulge information that is not mine to divulge. I do not use a pseudonym on this blog but do allow anonymous comments. If I know the identity of a pseudonymous commenter, I occasionally will respond to them using their first name but never their full name.
8. How do you respond to comments and email from readers?
My e-mail is not listed on my blog - only on my profile - so I don't get much e-mail responding to blog material. When I have, though, I have responded to each one in a response e-mail. If a comment calls for further discussion, I respond in a comment. I do not feel like every comment needs a direct response, though. I decide on a case by case basis.
9. What are the most challenging aspects of blogging in your experience?
Sometimes it's a matter of finding a topic that I consider sufficiently worthwhile to put forward in a public space. Occasionally it's the apparent lack of interest of other people in a topic that has captured my imagination and seems important to me. In other words, the sometimes difficulties of communication generally are in play here too.
10. What are the most rewarding aspects of blogging in your experience?
Synchronicity and synergy re topics and issues that simultaneously capture the attention of many UU bloggers both independently and in response to each other.
11. What advice would you give to Unitarian Universalists who are new to blogging and want to get started?
Your blog is your space. Within the range of decorum, don't hold back. Talk about what is on your mind. Respond honestly. Don't shy away from saying what you think is important. Be willing to revisit ideas that you begin to think differently about. Have fun.
12. How do you evaluate the success of your blog? What have been your most successful blog posts or series?
When people respond either in the comments or on their own blogs, it feels like I am actually participating in a conversation. Other than that, though, I guess I evaluate my blog by occasionally going back to previous posts and deciding that, no, I did not embarrass myself by expressing myself in a public forum.
13. What do you wish you had done differently in your blogging?
Sometimes I think it might have been better to have separate blogs for UU stuff and non-UU aesthetic stuff. I did start a separate blog for a particular spiritual practice that I expected that most of my readers here would have less interest in. But for the most part, I am satisfied with the results of leaving both UU and non-UU stuff together in the same blog. I am torn on how to handle labels. On the one hand, I admire the people who have five or six labels, categories into which everything they write on gets grouped. On the other hand, I like to use labels to locate specific posts that I remember seeing but do not remember when or any key words to use a search to find. Five categories look neater in the sidebar, but more precisely meaningful labels are more useful - so long as the list is not interminable. So, while I have reservations about some things, I am mostly satisfied with the decisions I've made for this blog.
14. What other online tools do you use to promote your blog? (i.e. social networking sites, Twitter, social bookmarking tools, etc.)
FB. Online poetry groups.
15. Do you use an Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feed? How many subscribers do you have?
I don't know.
16. Do you track site traffic? How many unique visitors do you have per day (on average)?
Yes. ~30/avg. day.
17. Do you find Unitarian Universalist Association resources helpful to you as a blogger? What additional resources could we provide to Unitarian Universalist bloggers?
I frequently refer to materials on the UUA website when crafting posts on UU topics.
18. Please write any additional comments or suggestions.
I think I said what I had to say. For now.

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