What Makes A Good Blog?

Dan's not so sure that self nomination is the way to do it.

Identifying what makes a blog worthwhile to recommend to others, that is.

Tom Woodward's comments further down on that post are really worth a read though.

This idea is probably way too subjective to push into too deeply. But it ties neatly with a conversation I had with Sue Waters a few weeks back (on twitter, where else?) about what style of blog qualifies as good writing. To paraphrase what we tossed about in less than 140 character comments, we found that we both appreciated very different qualities in the readability of blogs. What I might find artful and clever wordsmithing might be painful reading for another. Step by step instructions with annotated screengrabs and how-to-be-a-great-whatever appeal to some people but have me reaching for the "Mark As Read" button.


Your trash might be my treasure.

Or vice versa.

It can be a bit worrying when bloggers I love to read for their rubber band expertise with words start resolving to become more professional in their writing. Try this quote from my colleague Alex Hayes:

You’ll notice some changes in this blog structure and the way it reads again so here’s hoping this is the end of the spring clean for 2007 and that I can get down to some serious summer business.

Compared to this gem which was a contender for best start to a blog post for 2007 for me:

I love my suit.

It’s the only one I own.

I wear it to weddings, funerals and other important educational meetings.

blogoff.jpgAnd the problem with my own blog is that it lacks the focus to document and explore issues and ideas in well thought out detail, but doesn't make the jump to the wondrous language-mangling of an Artichoke or a Ken Rodoff.

It'd be a pretty boring world if we all liked the same stuff. And I suppose liking your own prose and rating it highly is OK in this new form of reflections, connections and objections.


More try-hard phrase turning.

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13 thoughts on “What Makes A Good Blog?

  1. ken rodoff

    did I just get compared to an artichoke??? 🙂

    is it okay if I’m not sure how to feel with the descriptor, “wondrous language mangling”?

    please don’t tell anyone that I have an English degree.

  2. Dina

    I totally see where Graham is putting you and Artichoke both in the same category, Ken. There’s PLAY involved in your writing.

    What makes this question (what is a good blog) appear to be a near impermeable wasteland of relativism is the fact that underneath the screen caps, hyperlinks, and pretty pretty fonts, blogs are *written*. So it’s the question of what makes good writing that’s really traipsing around drunk at this party, don’t you think? And people have been debating that for centuries. Play– versus “professionalism”, perhaps, and what quantities of each are required where? (Are they mutually exclusive?)

    Do some “techies” find playful language annoying precisely because they as people are not always sensually oriented (one of the very definitions of play, and good writing) in the first place? Perhaps blogs as creative writing, in bed with Web 2.0, are odd animals to begin with for them.

    Graham, I’m going to encourage you to consider this more deeply than just “trash and treasure” and write about it again.

  3. Kerrie Smith

    Graham, one of the things I have been focussing on this year is trying to write a better blog. I guess a measure of success in that is if people actually read your blog, and secondly if they bother to comment on it. A friend has commented to me how frustrating it is that people will read what you have to say but don’t seem to bother to take the time to comment. That doesn’t seem to be a problem you have – there are often nice juicy comments to read as well.

    One of the keys though I think is find things that people want to know about, or things they want to discuss. Discussing “what is a good blog” seems to be something lots of people are tussling with this year and improving their blog both in content and outreach figured large in new year’s resolutions.

  4. Graham Wegner

    @ken Believe me, language mangling is a compliment. And Artichoke is definitely one of the bloggers who has made me think the most about what I write and do as an educator. So, another big compliment, in my eyes.
    @dina You’re right, you know. I skirted around this whole “what makes good writing” issue but you spotted it straightaway. I certainly believe that writing can and should be playful, a form of expression (that’s not to say that there aren’t times when formality and clarity will be the best way to communicate) and I firmly believe that the English language is a hybrid mishmash still evolving and its “golden rules” are open to re-interpretation and re-purposing without necessarily becoming proof of illiteracy. In fact, someone who can consciously do so has a literacy capability higher than most!
    I suppose I’m intrigued by what people perceive to be good writing style on a blog – that is subjective, although it is easily spotted when poorly executed. And sometimes creative turns of phrase also exclude and confuse ESL readers – that would be one reason that might count against some of my most beloved blog reads. Certainly, a deeper blog post might be in order soon.
    @Kerrie I’m a bit worried when some people reduce this blogging caper down to some sort of formula that will guarantee wider readership or more comments. Comments are an interesting measure anyway. When I collated all of my comments, only a handful of people contributed more than a handful of times. Readers who find your writing strikes a chord are the return commenters and often the ones willing to get into a conversation mode as well. I agree that “what is a good blog” is an interesting idea to tussle with and more conjecture sometimes only muddies the water!

  5. Mike

    Hi Graham,
    Your last 2 posts are spot on for me…
    First, as an expat kiwi, it’s nice to see what people are doing over there…Lynnes latest post on blogging was particularly useful, and is next on my “must comment and say thanks” list. I’ve found plenty of useful stuff from lurking around your blog…
    Then, just as I’m having another go at starting a blog myself, you post this bit to get the mind whirring.
    Nice work, cheers.

  6. Sue Waters

    Excellent post Graham. I think my views on how individual people’s personal preference is for writing style has been further highlighted by the varying types of blog posts I’m seeing shared through Google Readers integration with our GTalk friends. Close examination of what each shares shows such wide variety in personal preferences – I don’t think there is such a thing as “A single formula for a Good Blog” but there are features that will enhance that enhance posts and blog layout.

    Perhaps also the difference between yours and my preference in blog posts relates to how we both read the posts. I subscribe to a large number of blogs, which requires me to speed read them. Really deep thinking posts mean that I have to slow down – take my time.

    As bloggers we have to find our own voices – work out what works for us – know what we like and don’t like – and be true to ourselves. Oops thinking those may have been some of Alex’s wise words of wisdom 🙂 .

  7. Ann Oro

    I enjoyed your previous post on creating icons as well as this one. Is the award above another homegrown image? You should awarding it to your favorite bloggers (maybe with upper/lowercase letters).

  8. ken

    for what it’s worth, I’ve discussed with my other, more self-conscious personalities, and they all believe that readership matters more than comments.

    they tell me this, most likely, b/c the collection of comments on my blog are so infrequent that, should the blog ever convert itself to a trash can, Oscar would never even spend one night @ mine.

    And I…love Readers!!!

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    » Can You Really Identify Features That Makes A Good Blog? Mobile Technology in TAFE

  10. Jess

    I’m glad to be reading about this topic. It’s so easy to get caught up in thinking that you have to do things a particular way and then losing your own voice as you do. It’s great to be reminded every now and again that blogging and other things in life, don’t need to be this way.

  11. Graham Wegner

    @alex. I’m sorry about the About button and its false link – I’ve changed themes to resolve the issue. Now the link isn’t visible until you hover over it but it is linkable!
    @Jess. Voice is a really important word to use here because I think that when writing becomes formulaic, the writer’s voice is harder to capture in words. I’ve now found your reflective blog (as opposed to Technolote) and added it to my Google Reader. We still need more Aussie voice in the edublogosphere, I reckon!
    @ken. Readers are good but only comments will tell you what they’re thinking!
    @ann. Thanks for the suggestion – I did create another award icon that bloggers could display on their blog if they supported the idea behind it, but only a few bloggers caught the bug and subsequently eradicated it! Feel free to use it – it’s over in the Awards section.
    @Sue. See what evolves from Twitter!
    @Mike. Stop lurking (well, don’t stop completely) and get blogging, I say!

  12. alexanderhayes

    My anti-spam word was getreal54.

    Say’s plenty.

    My green tea’s going cold. My eyes are sore. DET locked me out today so I’m internet-less. Went home.

    Clicked on ‘mapsamongus’. Checked my del.icio.us feed.

    Noticed Graham had posted me a link and spen the next half a day buried in code up to my neck before finishing atkinsontraining.com Moodle hack by night fall.

    Added some others to del.icio.us/alexanderhayes

    Sent off an invoice.One day I might get paid.

    What makes a good blogpost ? One that speaks to others.

    Something bigger than 140 caricatures 🙂


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