It took me a while to reply to François Lamotte, from Shoob, who wanted to know how various bloggers were writing their posts. He asked us to define five key points — or principles. Personally, I have only one principle when I write, be it a report, a presentation, a personal e-mail, a postcard or a post on a blog. And it is only three words long: respect the reader. Of course, writing a blog and an academic paper are two different things. So read more to discover my personal guidelines. UPDATE (November 8, 2006): you can read the French version of these guidelines in “Comment blogue Roland Piquepaille?” published by François on Shoob.
Choose an interesting subject
For my blogs about emerging trends (ZDNet or Primidi), I usually select a subject which has not yet be treated by the mainstream media or blogs with large readership. And I’m choosing only one subject daily on more than a thousand articles that I read — partially or totally.
For the ones focused about why companies should use blogs (Blogs for Companies or ITtoolbox), my selecting process is slightly different. For example, if I want to write about the latest corporate blog launched by Intel, I’m waiting until there are enough posts to see if the blog has a future or not — according to me. Being the first to write about this blog is not interesting for me — and my readers (read this for more details).
In both cases, as I’m publishing “knowledge blogs,” I usually avoid to write about subjects which already have abundantly commented on.
Find references and pictures
Even if some bloggers say they’re dead, press releases still exist. And the mainstream media also are still alive — and well, at least for some. But often, and probably because they have to face the competition of some influent bloggers, news releases and press articles have a tendency to rush. Sometimes, they mention a researcher’s name or the name of the journal which published his latest work. When I decide to publish a post about a specific subject, I’m looking for the exact references and even previous publications from this researcher or his lab. I’m also searching for illustrations which will allow the reader to better understand what are the concepts behind a specific research work.
Check all the facts
Even if you’re reading very well established newspapers or magazines, it’s better to look at possible mistakes and to double check if their numbers are right. Like when the French news magazine L’Express wrote a few months ago that IBM had 130,000 employees: at this time, IBM employed 330,000 persons (read this for more details).
When I decided two days ago to write that an American astronomer was envisioning to build a ’sun umbrella’ to protect us from the global warming consequences, a project which could cost as much as $2,5 trillion, I searched for several confirmations. First, I wanted to know if I was not dreaming, and then, I really needed to validate such an incredible information. After checking if the information was true, I wrote a note which has now been picked in a way or another by influential blogs, such as Engadget, Defense Tech or Slashdot (read this for more details).
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Pay attention to presentation
If an interesting content is essential for a blog, the way the information is presented is also crucial. Even if a blog post is considered as less formal than a report to your CEO doesn’t mean that you have to ignore grammar rules. Below is a non-exhaustive list of what I’m checking before publishing a post on my blogs.
- Find a “good” title for the post (read “How to find a good title for a note“)
- Summarize the note for inclusion in various news feeds
- Spell check the text (read “Check Your Text for Formal Errors“)
- Check syntax, grammar and punctuation
- Check that all the links mentioned in the post are accessible — at least when I’m publishing the note
- Mention all the sources for the post
- Indicate the “weight” of some documents (animations and videos for example)
And always think about the potential reader
I guess you already have understood that I’m thinking about you when I’m publishing a note. Even after 4 1/2 years of blog writing, I’m still only publishing about things that passionate me — and which might interest you. This process led me to have friends all over the world. And if one day I’m getting bored, you’ll feel it. And I’ll stop blogging.
Sources: Roland Piquepaille, November 6, 2006; and various websites
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