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Blogging

To have a good blog means you have to listen

Cartoon by Dave Coverly

Cartoon by Dave Coverly

I used to think blogging was silly.  But, actually, it’s not that bad.  I have found that blogging is not as easy as it seems.  I do research, put thought into each word, and try to make my blog posts useful, or at least entertaining.  It’s like a mini paper every time.  I understand now and appreciate people who blog daily, and appreciate bloggers who garner a large audience.  It takes skill and it takes time. What helps to create content is listening.  Netvibes is a good tool to do just that.  Netvibes is a personalized dashboard which allows you to see various portals of social media all in one place.  You can arrange widgets how you like. Also, as scintillating as your blogs are about your everyday escapades to the mall or the cutest thing your cat did, people won’t be attracted to your blog if you don’t have them in mind.  Writing blog content means writing something that people would want to read.  So, by listening to what is being talked about your brand or nonprofit, you can stay abreast of what the public dialogue is concerning your nonprofit.  Kivi Miller offers some concrete tips on what to do with what you learn from listening.

But far more important than the fueling of content for your blog, listening should be the first thing you do, and you should continue listening. If you don’t listen, then you might miss something important. It could actually result in a social media disaster, like what happened with the Komen Planned-Parenthood ordeal. Click here to learn more about the stages of a social media disaster.  I haven’t been blogging for that long, but I know that listening is the cornerstone of any good social media campaign and the key to creating blog content.

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Privacy… Is it possible? And why should you care?

 

Privacy is a term that has somewhat lost its meaning over time.  It’s a topic that’s been contested over for sure, but what is doubtful is whether it can be achieved or not.  Of course, there is no true privacy in this day and age–in the absolute sense of the word.  But why does privacy matter?

We should be allowed to have the choice to make something private or public.  If everything that’s private in our lives is made public or publicly available, we’re robbed of the chance to even build the courage to come out into the public to share something that is very private to us.  We’re robbed of our own mouthpiece and freedom to express, that is, the way WE want to express ourselves.

Like Bruce Shneier, I believe

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

So, as a social worker who advocates for others, as an artist, and at the most basic level as an individual person, I feel like privacy at some degree can be achieved.  It’s my right to some level of privacy, and it’s my responsibility to make sure others also enjoy some privacy.

There are some ways to reconcile the gap between true privacy and the intrusion that comes with the wonders of internet and mobile technology.  You can achieve reasonable internet privacy.  It’s important to be aware of and educate others about how to be responsible with your own and others’ information on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.  Think before you type.

But even with advanced hacking and surveillance technology, there is also emerging technology to counter these threats to our privacy.  Silent Circle is in the works of coming out with their latest, groundbreaking, “surveillance-proof” smart phone app.  This peer-to-peer mobile app will supposedly enable you to send files securely by scrambling the data and then set a timer to automatically “burn” the file from both devices.  This would not make some government agencies happy.  But hooray for those of us who want ways to keep our lives more private!

It’s important to know how to be safe and secure while also being social.  Social networks are great, but with businesses and employers encroaching more and more into employees’ lives via social networks, it’s easy to feel inhibited and almost oppressed.  A great go-to reference on privacy and social networks is here.  Technology will always be there and will always threaten to invade your privacy, but that’s why it’s important to know what your rights are and how to achieve some level of privacy.

 


What is Good Storytelling?

storytelling-1

You hear stories all the time… at work, with your friends, at the movies, etc.  Everyone loves a good story.  But what is it that makes a story good?  And how do you tell a good story through a blog?

I did a little research on storytelling, and from what I could gather, I’ve gleaned that there are more or less 5 elements that make a story good:

  1. Hook your audience, and then keep them interested until the very end.  Maximilian Majewski, in a blog post titled Be a Storyteller:  How to Write Great Blogs, says to interest the reader within the first paragraph, and if they continue reading beyond that, you have won.
  2. Talk about something that would interest anyone and everyone.  According to Andrew Stanton, the greatest commandment of storytelling is to make the reader care. Stanton says that a good story starts off by giving you a promise that the story will lead somewhere that’s worth your time.  Click here to see filmmaker Andrew Stanton (Wall-E) talk more about storytelling.
  3. It may be your story, but make it a deeply personal story, one that everyone can relate to.  A great story is laden with values and sentiments that are universally felt.  John Steinbeck said,

If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen.  And here I make a rule–a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last.  The strange and foreign is not interesting–only the deeply personal and familiar.”

4.  If you can’t think of something to write about, then listen to what’s going on around you, and to how people react to what’s going on, so that you’ll be able to clarify a position in a controversial matter, or be able to add something of value.  Kivi Miller talks about how to write awesome blogs here.

5.  And since Andrew Stanton has such good insight into how good storytelling works, I’ll share one other element of his, that is, the unifying theory of 2 plus 2.  The whole idea is to make your audience work for it’s meal.  Stanton says not to give them 4, but make them put 2 and 2 together.  It is the very absence and withholding of information that draws people in and keeps them interested in a story.  People want to anticipate what’s going to happen next and want to put the pieces together, so let them.

These 5 I listed are just major ideas I took away from the blogs and videos I skimmed on the web.  Hopefully these tips help.  Happy storytelling.

For more information on what the seasoned bloggers of today think about storytelling, see the article 18 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Storytelling.


Personal vs. Professional Use of Social Media

In the non-cyber world, I am a sound believer that there is a time and place for everything.  There’s a time to be professional and a time and place to be personal.  This tenet of mine also holds in the cyber world.

When it’s time to be personal, you don’t censor yourself, you don’t worry about what to say and post, and you can also advertise for your professional life as well.  But when you want to be professional, you may want to consider very carefully where you post messages, how you go about posting on professional forums and social websites, and you will probably want to create different Facebook pages and other social media accounts solely for the “professional” you.

I feel like knowing how to separate and balance your personal use of social media with your professional use is crucial for your own reputation’s sake.  It is also important for the sake of your employers.  It is somewhat an art as well as a skill, and so I look forward to testing my creativity, skills, and patience as I continue to blog.