How to write good blog posts

Ok, let’s start with the post I just made below. Notice some things I did to structure this blog post.

1. I found something interesting on the internet and now I’m sharing it with you.
2. I’m doing more than just sharing it, I’m personalizing it. I’m telling you why I find it interesting.
3. Questions are asked in an anthropological vein.
4. Links are provided to other blogs who discuss the same issue.
5. The way the post concludes is open-ended. I’m inviting you to make responses

In a previous post I already covered how to embed video. Let’s cover some more mechanics.

Getting started
To make your first blog post, login to the blog dashboard and then select “Posts” from the menu on the left (look for the thumbtack icon) and then select “Add New”

Now you’re at the “Add New Post” screen. This is where you’re going to compose the blog. Give your masterpiece a title in the long rectangle that reads “Enter title here” and you’re ready to go.

Visual/ HTML
There’s one basic setting you need to consider. To the far right of the textbox are two tabs. One says “Visual” and the other “HTML”. This refers to how you will be composing your blog. If you’re not a tech savvy person or just aren’t interested in the nuts and bolts of blogging, choose “Visual.” If you’re the kind of person who can pick up computer stuff quickly you might try “HTML,” its actually really easy.

“HTML” refers to Hypertext Markup Language and is the simple code that is used to compose blog posts. It’s so simple, in fact, that to learn it I went to Barnes and Noble and took a “HTML for Dummies” book off the shelf, read it in the store and had the basic idea figured out. Later I purchased a cheap HTML editor called “Coffee Cup” and that helped me learn more. Being able to write HTML is something you can put on your resume like knowing MS Excel, it’s a useful skill to work on.

I’m assuming that most of you will want to work in Visual and that those of you brave enough to work in HTML are going to able to figure some stuff out on your own.

Making links
Putting links into your blog post instantly ups the interest factor. It’s considered good manners to link to a website if you’re borrowing an image, video, or idea, so try to get in the habit of doing it. It’s also very easy to do. In Visual the link button looks like a chain and can be found towards the right of all the buttons above the text box:

In HTML the button just says the word link and is found more towards the left.

Alright, in the post bellow, I’m talking about the video of the little girl, Riley, which went viral. That means it became a very popular internet video very quickly and, subsequently, bloggers started writing about it. I want to be able to link to the website http://skepchick.org but if I just use their homepage that will be insufficient. I need to go to the blog entry where they talk about Riley. That will have its own web address, also known as URL.

After I open the exact webpage I wanted, I come back to my dashboard and highlight the word in the text box that I want to serve as the link. That means when readers see the blog they will see that word highlighted in a special way that alerts them it is a link to another webpage.

Next I click the “Link” button and this pops up:

I’m going to copy and paste the URL into the box that says “URL” and click “Add link”. Presto!

If you’re using HTML you’ll see a bunch of code, if you’re using visual you’ll see this:

The word “Skepchick” is highlighted and underlined. Now a reader can click on that word and instantly it will take them to the article I’m talking about.

Adding Block Quotes
Block quotes are handy when you want to borrow a text passage from another blog. Maybe you agree with what the author is saying, or maybe you disagree. The point is you’re doing it because you think others will find it interesting and you want to share it.

First, go to the blog you’re interested in. In this case I was working on a post from Skepchick. Copy and past the text into your dashboard text box.

Next highlight the text you copied and (if you’re in visual) click the button that looks like a quotation mark.

In HTML, you click the button that says “b-quote.” Either way be sure to include a link to the original article.

Categories
Blogging is a great way to share information with others. It’s also good for keeping track of and organizing information. We do this by putting each blog post into one or more “Categories”.

By the time you’ve completed your blog post, you should have a pretty good idea of what its about right? To the right of the text box is a box labeled “Categories.”

I’m going to click on “+ Add New Category” and label this piece as about children, advertizing / marketing, and Geek Girl, which is my special project I’m working on. As I add these categories they appear as checked boxes. Also I unchecked the “Uncategorized” box.

What’s neat is, as the semester progresses, as more and more people find links, videos, and images about, say, children, that category will grow and we’ll have an index of everything we’ve found on the topic.

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About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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