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Name:
Brian T. Jackett
Location:
Columbus, OH
Company:
Microsoft

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How I Blog

    After my last post about goals for 2010 when I realized it has been over 6 months since I started blogging, I began to think about my blogging process and how it has changed over that time.  I’ve made quite a few changes and upgrades to various portions of my blogging process over that time.  Here’s a quick overview of where I’m at now as well as some tips for those of you thinking about starting up a blog but not knowing where to start.

Tools

  • Live Writer – Based on various buzz from other bloggers I gave Live Writer a shot when I began and haven’t needed anything else ever since.  Live Writer allows me to write up drafts, insert pictures, markup code (via numerous plug-ins), preview my post using my blog’s theme, publish finished posts, and pull up old posts quickly and easily.  All in all it’s a solid tool and has served my needs quite fine.
  • Twitter Notify – Live Writer has a nice plug-in called Twitter Notify that allows you to link your Twitter account to Live Writer.  Every time you publish a post it will give you the option of sending out a tweet with the title of your post and a link to the post.  I use this as my primary method to notify (aside from automated RSS feeds) others when I have new content posted.
  • Live Mesh – Live Mesh is a Microsoft tool that allows you to sync the content of folders across multiple computers and have 5 GBs worth of backups online.  I really can’t say enough about how much time Live Mesh saves me when it comes to blogging.  I use this to sync screenshots, Live Writer files (drafts and posts), and code snippets between my work laptop and my home desktop.  As an added bonus I also get all these files backed up into the glorious “interwebs cloud” should I ever have an issue with my personal backups.
  • Paint.Net – Paint.Net is a free tool that gives you basic PhotoShop-like image editing.  I use this for cropping screenshots, pixelating images with sensitive information, and many other minor tasks.  I find the software very easy to use and it’s hard to beat free.  Please support the tool providers with a donation if you end up using and liking it.

Hosting/Online Services

  • Geeks With Blogs – As this if my first blog, I took a recommendation from my coworker Kelly Jones and I signed up for a free account with Geeks With Blogs when I started out.  In the future I may look to get a most advanced solution offering, but so far this has been a great hosting site and suited my needs just fine.  There are dozens, probably hundreds of different sites that will host your blog.  If you are looking for specific features and capabilities take the time to research what they have to offer before choosing.
  • Google Analytics – What good is blogging if you can’t track statistics like number of visitors or which of your posts are the most popular?  With a simple sign up and just a small snippet of javascript on a layout page within your blog you can track page views and visitors, see who is linking to your content or where visitors came from, and get some nice charts and graphs trending usage over time.  This has helped me get a glimpse into what type of content and posts are the most popular for my audience.  For example the top 3 posts all time for me are:
  1. Alternative Modal Popup in SharePoint 2007
  2. Deploying Files to SharePoint Web App Directories
  3. The Power Of PowerShell and SharePoint: Enumerating SharePoint Permissions
  • FeedBurner – I have to admit, FeedBurner is one of the only blogging tools that I use but don’t fully understand.  The basic premise as I understand it is that it allows you to customize your RSS feeder by taking the current output and redirecting it through their services.  You can add functionality to your RSS feed, cross promote your feeds amongst multiple sites, track subscribers who are reading your posts through RSS vs. actually hitting your site, and do a host of other things.  The piece about tracking RSS subscribers is the main thing that attracted me to FeedBurner.  If anyone has feedback on what else FeedBurner is or how to better use it please let me know in the comments below.
  • GoDaddy – A few months ago I attended one of Jeff Blankenburg’s presentations called “Making A Name For Yourself” in which he talked about a number of ways to create a solid identity of who you are and promoting that identity in various forms.  One of those ways is reserving a domain name for your site that helps customize and personify your site.  I chose to go with GoDaddy.com because they are one of the cheapest and easiest to get started with.  My current primary domain is BrianTJackett.com which happens to coincide with my Twitter handle, username on various social sites, and if you couldn’t tell contains most of my full name to make it fairly easy for others to remember.

Tips for Starting Out

    So, if you’ve read this far and you yourself don’t have a blog but are interested in starting one here are a few tips.

  • Know your content – What is it that you want to blog about?  Will your blog contains posts about cool robotics work that you are doing, video game reviews, or perhaps your super cute cat Mr. Mittens?  Decide on an area or related group of topics (such as SharePoint and general .Net like I have) and focus on those.
  • Know your audience – Relating to the above, who are you writing your content for?  Are you writing posts for personal reference in the future (I know some people who do this), for internal company coworkers, or for the community at large.  This will shape what, how, and why you write.
  • Set goals – Define some goals for yourself about how often you plan to publish content, how many visitors/subscribers you are aiming for, or some other means of measuring how you are doing with your blogging.  As stated in my previous post I’ve set some blogging goals for myself and have done fairly well sticking to them. This not only helps motivate you to keep writing but also offers some level of consistency for your audience.  Nothing is worse than starting out great publishing 10 posts in one month and then going silent for a year, don’t be that guy/gal.
  • Write when it’s right – You like that play on words?  I bet you chuckled for brief second before shaking your head.  I have never been great at writing, literature, and all those book type things.  For me it’s very rare that I can sit down and just let my thoughts flow onto paper (or monitor/screen as it were.)  When I do get those moments of clarity I shut out distractions, turn on some music, and capitalize on the moment.  Don’t force your writing, but when a good idea comes to mind start to write it out or at least jot it down for future use.
  • Read other blogs – Seems obvious, but really go out there and start reading some blogs that interest you.  Perhaps they are written by coworkers, people you’ve met at user groups, or some super awesome person in your field of work that everyone talks about.  This can help you find your footing for style, content, and many other things.
  • Get feedback – This one is huge.  Find some trusted friends, coworkers, or even your family to read over your posts and give you feedback on what they like/dislike about your posts.  Just like giving a presentation to a practice audience, having others review and comment on your writing can be very helpful to making you a stronger writer.

Conclusion

    So there you have it, my current blogging tools, a little about my process, and some tips for starting out.  If you’d like to share anything about your own blogging experience or have some feedback of your own feel free to comment below.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading my blog over the past almost 7 months now and giving me encouragement to keep writing.  I find it very fulfilling and hopefully you do as well.

        -Frog Out


Tuesday, January 12, 2010 11:48 PM

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