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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Friday, August 1, 2003

Blog Post Optimization

Was just talking to a friend who's started his blog less than a month ago.  He raised these issues, asking some questions :

  • wish i could have my blog appraised for readability
  • what's the optimization for number of words, pictures, links in a blog post

Did a quick search on 'rules for a blog post', 'ideal blog post', 'blog post optimization' on Google - came up with no answers whatsoever!  A few reads in this regard :

8 simple rules for dating my blog

Deconstructing the Blog

10 golden journal/blog rules

I have no answers really.   I know some bloggers are conscious of this and have just a portion of the post on the front page of their blogs with a link that says more.  I suspect the answers would differ by genre of blog, quality of words, pics and links, writing skills, reader reach and profiles.   Not sure whether the basic rule - 'less is more' - holds true for blogs. 

I think each of us makes up our own rules as we go along.  We explore, observe, connect, react, act.  Some do it more intuitively, others more analytically.  And somewhere, along the way, we begin to discover what 'works' for our own blog. 

My experience has been that its the content that really matters - whether its a long long post filled with links, or a more analytical post with the writer's own thoughts revealed, or a simple picture or quotation that connects at some level - any or all of these could engage readers in conversations or provoke them to share their own experiences.

Three questions i take with me to my cottage for the weekend :

  • is there anything written anywhere about the optimal number of words, pix, links in a post ?
  • what feedback mechanisms (comments, links to posts, technorati and other ratings, site trackers etc) can give us a better clue to this
  • should we even be bothered about it at all - or continue blogging intuitively ?

1:08:45 PM    comment []  trackback []

The Cost of Conflict

This post at Avi's blog - Thought Garden reminds me of a story my father tells about a real happening just after partition was announced.  A team of doctors and medical students (and he was one of the youngest members of this team, still a medical student) was sent from Bombay to Lahore (in Pakistan). Interestingly, the hospital was in Pakistan and the brief was to treat injured Indian refugees. This team had no Hindu or Muslim doctors or students in it by design, due to the delicate situation - only Jewish, Parsi and Christian doctors and students were sent. 

The point here is not to describe the horrific ravages they were exposed to.  The reality was in the blurring of 'national identity' - they treated all injured as human beings, with no distinction between Hindus and Muslims.

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Avi's modified this painting by Escher - and calls it - Cost of Conflict! : And they took up their erasers!. Avi tells me he visualized the illustration to illustrate that the two states have no other option than to help each other attain mutual realization...provided they gave up their fascination with erasers and erase each other out of existence!

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10:42:44 AM    comment []  trackback []

Networking Stagnation - Great Series from Ton

Ton Zijlstra is on a roll - after a great post on Monstrous KM, here's a neat series from him -  Networking Stagnation : Fatigue or Growing Pains - I, II & III.   He has articulated and analysed so well what i'm beginning to feel about networking - and i'm sure there's a lot of us out here on the web who share many of his thoughts and experiences.

This is the most recent post in the series - I have posted it here, in full to do it justice.

The second question I want to discuss is how to allow for digestion and consolidation between spurts of discovery.

I started my current spurt of discovery in May 2002 when I joined KnowledgeBoard. Half a year later I started my weblog in English, boosting the discovery process, and just a month ago I started a weblog in Dutch and German, looking to boost it once again.

With all the enthusiasm that comes with entering new uncharted territories at first everything is interesting. All special interest groups on KnowledgeBoard are worth contributing to, all interesting blogposts, and boy there are many out there, are worth commenting on or reflecting on in your own blog. You reach addiction levels when you start being afraid to miss something interesting.

But that eagerness takes its toll. There is no real time to filter all that passes before your eyes, as you're already sprinting to the next interesting post as soon as you've linked to the last one. And finally there is the time when all that discovering and exploring, and playing with ideas for fascinating projects, becomes too much.

Then it's time to sit back and reflect. What use is all this to me? What is applicable now, and what is promising for later? How are my opinions and beliefs influenced and changed? These are the type of questions that help digest what you discovered. It means, selecting and setting priorities based on current problems to solve, or current needs to fulfill. It means learning that it is not neglecting your duties, it's honoring them, when you pass up on all the interesting conversations out there for a while, so that you may make more sense of the ones you have participated in. It means picking a few discussions and instead of widening them to encompass the world, narrowing them down as to be able to dig deeper.

A close friend of mine uses a picture of a pyramid for this. In times of rapid personal growth you build a tower on your current base of opinions, skills and beliefs. As that tower reaches increasing heights, you have to stop building upwards for a while and broaden the base some more, to keep the tower stable. After broadening the base you can continue reaching for the skies again. So you're always building on top of a pyramid, with an ever broadening base.

The excitement of discovery is probably not so easy replaced by the more mundane task of broadening the base of your knowledge pyramid. So the question is how to make broadening the base more attractive, lessening the contrast with the rush of discovery.

If that question goes unanswered we probably end up with doing away with the results of a discovery phase. "It was great, but in the end nothing came out of it" and go looking for discovery in another realm with the vain hope that things will be different there. It's a pattern one can find in early adoptors a lot I think, where hopping to the 'new thing' without really structurally adopting or assimilating the 'last new thing' is common.

The disappointment in the quotes in my first post in this little trilogy speaks I think of that contrast between the 'trip' of discovery, and having to deal with the rest of the world predominantly unimpressed by the stunning things you found along the way. It's maybe the grown up version of being a little kid and finding all these beautiful glittering stones in the riverbed. "Look dad, look at these beautiful glittering stones." "Ah that's only fools gold, my son, nothing to get excited about."

But the point was and is that you are excited. When I speak to non-bloggers in fact I want them to understand my excitement more than I want them to understand blogging per se. But as with scores of dads, they seem to miss the importance of being excited.

The answer to that might be to try and mix discovery and consolidation. I can name a few things that became increasingly clear to me in the last 14 months of discovery, and have changed and augmented my belief system:

  • the paradigmshift behind knowledge management is really fundamental, and is at its core about personal empowerment in a networked environment. It's more about philosophy than about business science.
  • having tapped into a community of people with amazingly bright and provoking ideas, the need to be able to tap into (these type of) communities, to keep being provoked to grow shows itself to be vital.
  • reinforcement of the belief that if I want to see change, I have to work towards that change myself
  • blogging is about people first and people only
  • personal relationships are the stuff of our lives
  • I want to be self employed to be able to put my (new) beliefs to work
  • cybernetworks are reinforced and stabilized by face to face meetings.

    What does that mean in terms of digestion? Most of the stuff I discussed and found in the last year was not directly about the points I filtered out above. But a lot of the underlying assumptions of those discussions were, and the conversations made them visible to me. And all points are points that one can act on.

    So how to pursue the digestion, without losing the edge of discovery? By bringing the co-discoverers in for the process of digestion, and not going it all alone, might be a thought. Me writing about it here for instance, which is by the way the result of a conversation I had with my partner over dinner yesterday. (while enjoying a great dessert by the way: strawberries with gorgonzola cheese melted over them with aceto balsamico, and a beautiful glass of Sauternes)

    Also, the Blogtalk conference taught me that I will need to invest some time and money to meet with fellow bloggers on a more regular basis face to face, to continue a few selected topics of discussion. There are several of them within a couple of hours travel, so why not go that way.

    Further, I have decided to bring the question of what to do with the results of discovery, how to apply them and feed them into the workflow, under peer-review. In the coming month plans are to meet up with some trusted people of different business backgrounds to discuss these questions during a series of Wednesday-nights. A little group of people in a workshop like setting, in summer evening surroundings.

    All this should be aimed to result into more tangible output and results. Theorizing is always great fun, but in the end how it improves the way we deal with life on this world is the only proof in the pudding that should count.

  • 9:59:16 AM    comment []  trackback []