Monthly Archives: February 2005

What makes a good blog posting?

I’ve been mulling this one over in my head: what makes a good blog posting? Here’s my bullet point list, based on a mix of reading and browsing:

  • Firstly, it should have a clear headline. None of this cryptic, punny rubbish – tell me what it’s about. Now. Chances are I’m reading this in a list of headlines and I need to know if it’s relevant.
  • Secondly – and this is not a blanket rule – but it shouldn’t be overlong. Note I don’t say “short” – what I mean is it can go on for a while if it’s a worthy analysis, but otherwise, don’t keep us waiting with fluff.
  • Thirdly: focus and relevance. Pick your subject and stick to it.
  • Clarity.
  • Transparency – link to everything you mention. And deep-link: that is, don’t link to the homepage, link to the specific page that concerns what you’re talking about.
  • Knowledge – why would we read what you write, if you cant back it up?
  • Finally, the best blog postings have personality – a passion about the subject and, if appropriate, a wit in talking about it.

Now, if you want to read someone else’s opinion, The Washington Post give their tips here.

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Clearing out my Bloglines

Keyword: . I’ve been clearing out my Bloglines subscriptions as they seem to have grown out of control to the extent where I never actually get around to reading them. So, if I don’t see me reading them every day, they’re gone – or at least moved to a place where I’ll still check it, albeit less often.

Out goes News Dissector, which, er, dissects the day’s news (in America), as does the similarly focused Media Matters for America, Nieman Watchdog and Orcinus. I’m tired of reading about America – it’s like I’ve been watching depressing art films for months and have decided to enjoy myself for once with Dodgeball instead.

NEWSgrist looks eclectically curious, but is still out – likewise The Revealer. And while I like the idea of The Smoking Gun, reading it every day is a silly idea.

Finally the whole of my ‘general’ folder goes out the window: Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok’s comment on microeconomic theory and the globalization of culture at “Marginal Revolution”, and alternative media site AlterNet. Out go “Iraq: The Model” and “Baghdad Burning,” which respectively support and oppose the U.S. military intervention; the right-wing “Edge of England’s Sword” and the pro-war leftist “Harry’s Place.” “Slugger O’Toole” ‘s blog covering the Northern Ireland beat, and “A Fistful of Euros”’ overview of Western European politics. BlogAfrica‘s syndicated blogs from across that continent, Living in China‘s expatriate perspective on Chinese politics and society and Japanese tech entrepreneur and venture capitalist Joi Ito (“Joi Ito’s Web”) also get ditched. Really, who was I kidding?

From hacks to hackers: the future of celebrity journalism?

Keyword: . I was pretty amused when a contact emailed me Paris Hilton’s phonebook, which has been hacked and distributed online. Tempted as I am to call her dad and ask for a loan, or ring Fred Durst for a casual chat there wasn’t much I could do with it. Mainly because it’s not journalism – just a hacker who wants to spread some gossip – but it’s perhaps a sign of how celebrity journalism in particular may go: how long till hacks have their own hackers? (sorry, couldn’t resist that). Paris certainly isn’t the first, as this article attests.

Story leads from messageboards

Keyword: . Here’s a great example of a messageboard posting that a savvy journalist could pick up on and turn into a story: Bolton Wanderers fans complaining of poor ticket arrangements for the FA Cup game on Saturday (itself newsworthy due to the low turnout). I won’t add my own experiences of ordering tickets for Bham City away only to find that they’d never processed it. Oh well, I just did.

Why journalists should use RSS

Keyword: . The internet really is a gift for the lazy journalist – but for the lazy journalist who’s prepared to put in a little work now to be extra lazy later, it’s heaven.

Take RSS (Really Simple Syndication). RSS allows you to subscribe (free) to ‘news feeds’ for a particular site or blog, that can then be displayed on a single page – or, if visiting one website rather than dozens is too much work, it can even be emailed to you.

The first thing you’ll need is an RSS reader like the web-based Bloglines or the PC-based RSS Reader (you can find a list of others here). If you use My Yahoo! that also now allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds.

With that done, all you need to do is find the RSS feeds for the websites you’re using – if they have one. Look for an icon on the site that allows you to subscribe – for instance this one:

Subscribe with Bloglines

Or, more commonly, this one:

When you click on the XML icon you may see a page full of code. Don’t worry. Just copy the web address of that page and paste it into your RSS reader when it asks for the feed address. (more info about that XML icon here)

Even if there isn’t an icon, if it’s a blog, chances are it has a feed, as most blogging sites have RSS built in – for Blogger blogs, for example, just add /atom.xml on the end of the site address (this blog’s RSS feed, for example, is at http://ojournalism.blogspot.com/atom.xml). Bloglines also has a helpful facility when you click on ‘Add’ that allows you just to type in the ‘user’ of the blog that you want to subscribe to (the ‘user’ for this blog is ‘ojournalism’).

In truth it’s a lot more complicated to explain than it is to actually do. Once you’ve subscribed to Bloglines, for example, you can put a button on your toolbar that says ‘Subscribe with Bloglines’. When you find a useful blog or news site, you just click that button and confirm your subscription to the particular news feed.

If you use Firefox, it’s even easier, as an orange icon appears in the bottom right corner of the browser whenever there is an RSS feed – just click on it to add it to your favourites as a news feed.

A little bit of time spent getting to grips with this can save hours of browsing.

Debating the end of journalism

Keyword: . Unsubtly titled ‘The Fall and Fall of Journalism’, an event in London at the end of the month will debate “whether the traditional role of journalists is being usurped by simply anyone who has access to a digital camera, camcorder and the internet.” It continues “This debate will explore the new phenomena of citizen reporting, blogging and other new technology/new media-enabled reporting.” Some interesting speakers.