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About this blog: All change

October 13, 2010

Smiles all around. I’ve had a bit of a wash and brush up.

I’ve had a bit of a think too – a long one – and come up with a few ideas. As a result, things are changing on this blog.

You may have noticed a few of the changes already. If you haven’t, this post will tell you what they are, some of the thinking behind them and give a hint of what’s to come.

Shortly before I went away on holiday, three comments about me were lodged in my brain.

“You need to be more insightful.”

“Be less emo about everything.”

“Thanks to @thoroughlygood for the witty remarks.”

The first comment was an observation – both timely and positive – given to me by someone senior at the BBC. The second, a similar part-jokey piece of advice from the other end of positive/negative scale.

The third – a well meant message on Twitter about my incessant stream of BBC Proms tweets during the BBC Proms – actually had the opposite effect than intended. It got me thinking.

Is witticisms all people think I’m good for? The problem with witticisms is that they have a shelf life so too those who spout them. That shelf life is significantly reduced if your background isn’t in comedy. Did I need to think carefully about doing something different?

I spent a lot of time on holiday thinking about all three comments. It was a strange experience. Lots of staring into the middle distance. There were occasions when I was so deep in thought I looked like I’d been parted from my teddy bear. When I saw one such picture (see above) I realised I had to come up with some solutions.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Treatment

It seems an odd place to start, but the strongest thought – ‘be more insightful’ – provides the starting point. My usual trick of self-deprecation mixed with occasional rants has to die. Humour in blogs is hard work. There’s only so much sneering, sarcasm and self-deprecation that can be thrown at any subject. Be thoughtful. Read a bit. Think a bit.

2. Blogging isn’t a competition

The Google-juice argument doesn’t feel as relevant as it did a few years ago. It’s not about being first anymore. Resonating is more important. And resonating requires some kind of peer review or a community to resonate in. So work on community building.

Big words huh? Yes. Yes they are. And if you’re a member of that community reading this you may possibly feel offended being referred to in such a callous way. Please forgive me.

As it happens, I’ve already made a start on this.

3. Avoid acting impulsively

Because I’m striving to resonate, there’s no need to act impulsively. Don’t fire off things too quickly. The internet is littered with such case studies. I’ve commentated on them already and (only last night in fact) even fallen foul of such actions. Pause before writing stuff. Let it resonate.

3. Aim for brevity

If responding quickly to an emerging story, then keep the point incredibly simple and deliver it in a couple of sentences. Then step away. Don’t worry about blank space on a page. Sometimes, brevity is refreshing.

4. Back-pedal on writing about myself

It bores me when I read it back desperately trying to work out why a particular blog post still remains popular months after Ive written it. Remember that key message: Be less emo about stuff.

5. Represent my personality

Represent my personality with the subject areas I blog about. It’s a less self-obsessed approach. And of course, by being less self-obsessed I’ll worry less about what I’ve written after I’ve published it. That’s a key thing. Enjoy writing. Worry less.

6. Get a better idea of what I’m interested in

What am I interested in? I’ve no idea. It sounds odd to say, but I’m not interested in one particular thing. I don’t want to be an authority on one particular subject. I don’t want to be a ‘news source’ either. So, what do I feel confident writing about? What subject areas present a personal challenge? Mix the difficult with the easy. Don’t let the categories box me in.

This was – in truth – the most difficult thing. I see lots of other hugely popular blogs around. I’m envious of them. Those blogs have a secret – they specialize in one particular subject. But do I really need to specialise? Im interested in quite a few things. Couldn’t I leave it to the ‘community’ to build up its own impression. Couldn’t the community help define me?

As it happens, I started on this process some while back. Good stuff too.

7. Use other blogs as case-studies

Pause for a moment and think about how others successfully write blog posts. Two examples rang out whilst I was on holiday.

One was Peter Faint (OK, so I know him anyway but even so …) whose blog posts always include one point delivered in his style. It doesn’t take me long to work it out and once I have got the point I still enjoy reading the rest of the post. That’s efficiency.

The other example was another friend – successful food writer chappy Philip who runs the Yellow Wedge cheese shop in Twickenham. He’s recently started up a blog publishing recipes. I like the way he takes something food related in the media, riffs on it, adds his special ‘thing’ to the subject and then includes a recipe. In short, he takes a ‘thing’ and tacks something onto it. It seems effortless. He’s efficient too. Nice.

Wrapping it all up

OK, so the list isn’t exhaustive. But it does represent the result of quite a lot of thinking and represent the longest time I’ve taken to think about a blog. And because of that there’s a weird enjoyment to be had hitting the publish button too.

The biggest challenge is taking a few steps back from the keyboard the moment I feel the impulse to type. There’s some personal retraining to be done there but when it works, it’s reflected in the finished product. That’s important. And I hope you can see it in the posts over the past two weeks. Because the past two weeks have been brilliantly satisfying … around about the time this brand new view on things started.

More handy, painfully and fully transparent blog posts to come. Just not too soon. They take for ever to write.


The picture above is cropped from a scan of a Docklands Light Railway leaflet from 1990. It was published by Flickr User Sludgegulper and is used here in accordance with the Creative Commons Licence. Be sure to take a look at his fantastic Flickr set of Dresden from the late 1980s – smashing stuff.

  1. Graham Chestney permalink

    Jon this was quite a soul baring piece of work, and it must have taken some time and lots of gumption to do. But one has to ask why? You did make it clear this blog is based on your own thoughts, and correct me if I am wrong, is that what a blog is all about. And in the same way if people don’t like what is on the TV they don’t have to view it. I sincerley hope you don’t change, as in the words of Spock “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. Keep smiling it makes them wonder what you’ve been up to.

  2. cyberguycalif permalink

    It’s your blog Jon so you should write it anyway you chose. I think mixing up topics to blog about keeps people interested and coming back. If one sticks to the same subject over and over, it can drive people away who aren’t interested in that subject.

    Interaction with people who leave comments it good also, it shows you care that they paid a visit to your blog and cared enough to comment even it the comment is not so great.

    That photo of you is great but lacking a nice smile.

    And last I have no idea what being less emo about everything means so I hope that isn’t to bad a thing.

  3. Jon – th0ught provoking stuff.

    I was surprised and delighted that you should cite my own humble efforts as a useful case study, when I actually look on your work as something to aspire to. We should at the very least discuss over lunch sometime, if not form a full-blown mutual appreciation society!

    In any case I admire your taking the time to reflect on what you are doing and how you are doing it. I think this has served as a timely reminder for me to do the same.

    P x

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