What makes a good blog?
Hat tip to Merlin Mann at 43 Folders
At the American Nuclear Society conference taking place in Atlanta this week I was part of a panel discussion with Rod Adams from Atomic Insights, John Wheeler from This Week in Nuclear and Kirk Sorensen from Energy from Thorium (speaking from the audience). This is a critical mass of nuclear energy bloggers by any definition.
A lot of the discussion was on the mechanics and practices of blogging, and you can find this stuff on the Internet in a much more comprehensive way than I can represent the conversation here. Also, I’ll have additional coverage on the conference workshop over at the EnergyCollective later this week.
One of the things I talked about was that blogs tell stories. I've edited my prepared remarks and include a link to the slides for your reading pleasure below.
In 2008 a San Francisco, CA, blogger named Merlin Mann wrote a brief essay about story telling and blogging. However, I felt I could take the essay further in a number of areas and so adapted his essay with my extensions. Here it is.
Blogs tell stories
A good blog, indeed an extraordinary blog, must address the fundamental question of why the reader should spend time with its story. A good story, a satisfying story, must have a compelling start, a middle which lays out the struggle to resolve conflicts and contradictions, or which celebrates the triumph of hard work, dedication, innovation, or which captures the fortunate circumstances where just plain luck arrives and often when it is not expected.
Blogs tell stories, but there are dividing lines between ordinary blogs and those that tell the best stories. The best blogs are not just journalism. In some ways they hearken back to an oral tradition that is thousands of years old.
A blog has a voice
A blog must have a distinctive voice which in its highs and lows conveys the personality of the blogger and what it's publisher has to contribute to its readers' knowledge of how the world works. The voice of a blog is not a measured monotone. A good blog is exuberant and conveys its enthusiasm for its subject matter to the reader. A good blog is also serious when its needs to be, and must display determination to pursue a topic to its logical conclusions.
A blog cannot mere be a curator of links, a collection of pointers to the work of others, or a mish mash of citations of media clips. The voice of a blog must carry the reader to a new place, where there is better understanding of an issue, a topic, or an event. The blogger's voice cannot falter. The voice of a good blog tells a compelling story which carries with it elements that border on obsession about its topic.
Blogs are passionate about their subjects
A good blog takes the readers basic interest and captures their attention. Good blogs reflect commitment to an issue or cause, an industry, a person, product, or an idea. The stories told by a strong voice in a good blog overflow with a clear desire to satisfy curiosity about the subject matter. The reader must come away from reading such a blog knowing that the publisher never stops reading and learning about the blog's focus.
A good blog has tenacious attention to detail without burying its readers in a mass of disorganized facts. A good blog encourages the reader to follow the evolution of the story, including the use of links to reinforce the authenticity of the facts of the tale.
Blog success is derived from dedication to a craft
No successful blog is the product of "add water and microwave." Good blogs tells stories that reflect years of effort to refine the craft of written communication. Good blogs require dedication, hard work, and sometimes getting up at 2 AM to put an idea on the net so it will not be lost. Good blogs must be kept current with fresh, new stories.
Polite blogs do not make a difference
Good blogs must challenge their readers and take them out of their comfort zones. Good blogs are platforms for new core ideas which can create fundamental change. Blogs highlight divergent thinking that the mainstream media sometimes overlooks, and blogs may at times confound their readers with complex ideas out of the ordinary.
Even when a blog is an advocate for its subject, it cannot avoid the inevitable potholes in the road, and must write about them with equal attention to excellence. Blogs will also tell their readers when a story has no happy ending or where there is no prospect of closure.
Good blogs are persistent. They will repeatedly return to compelling subjects without taxing the patience of their readers because each new visit is a new perspective on the topic at hand. Good blogs are not boring or signals the publisher has stopped taking his medication.
Blogs put honor before elegance
Good blogs tell stories that explain the world from a unique perspective. They answer the "so what" questions. They do not waste your time, and when you finish reading the current day's offering, you are ready for more.
Good blogs explain more, analyze deeply, illuminate their subjects using high beams, and if they are really successful, inspire readers to go out and slay dragons or at least not be afraid of things that go bump in the night.
Good blogs pick you up the way the sun evaporates water from the sea. They carry you across the skies, and release you like rainfall into a new land. That's what blogs are or ought to be about.
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