I’m running a ‘blogging for beginners’ session at LSE today, so thought I’d post this to coincide.
Whenever I try and get evangelical about blogging, the anguished cry goes up ‘where do I find the time?!’ I admit I’m spoilt – blogging takes up 30-40% of my 4 days a week at Oxfam. But at five posts a week, that still only works out at 2 hours or so per post, including responding to comments and offers of guest posts, uploading, searching for pics and cartoons etc etc, so even for lucky old me, time is at a premium.
Some posts take a lot longer than 2 hours, and so they should – book reviews, or a piece of new thinking that involves a lot of discussion and emails zipping to and fro with colleagues and gurus on any given issue. Which means that some need to come in at an hour or less. Here are 10 kinds of post that qualify:
So don’t start with a blank sheet of paper, where writing a blog is just a separate task on top of your existing workload. Blogging about something you were doing/saying/writing anyway is both what a
blog should be (a ‘weblog’ or diary) and a source of authentic, quick posts
- Powerpoints as blogs: A good powerpoint makes a few good points, with a nice clear narrative flow. i.e. much the same as a blog. So if you’ve made the effort to produce a presentation, make sure you turn it into a blog (and upload the slides for anyone who wants to borrow from them). Recent example on barriers to NGOs and academics working together (OK, not a powerpoint, but a panel contribution)
- Interesting conversations and arguments: this can feel slightly manipulative (like those columnists who write about their families), but I often turn conversations and arguments into blogposts. Again, a good conversation compares different angles on an issue, and may reach a conclusion (but if you’re blogging, you can just go with your version of the argument!). Recent example: beer and tacos with Samir Doshi.
- Putting up draft papers/chapters with a summary and request for comments: I’m constantly impressed by the way a blog can generate useful commentary on work in progress. The only downside is the ever-lengthening acknowledgement sections in my papers. Recent example: theories of change in fragile settings.
- Links I Liked: my daily twitter feed doubles as a post per week of twitter highlights, usually pretty popular, especially if I keep it light. Most recent example.
As for more time consuming and original stuff, there are still some short cuts
- Sum, link and spin: Read something interesting? Either summarize or find a quote that captures what it was that interested you, link to the paper, and then give your opinion on why it’s important, what excited you and/or what is missing. Recent example: the World Bank’s draft World Development Report on governance and law.
- Field trips: if your job entails ‘field trips’ to interesting places, these often resemble rolling seminars, generating any number of bloggable thoughts and conversations. My recent Myanmar produced 3.5 posts, which is probably about average for a 10 day trip. These take more than an hour, but are a great way to process what you are seeing. Recent example: social accountability in Myanmar
- Chatham House Rules are your friend. Any meeting held under the Rule is great blog fodder – you can’t attribute anything said by name or institution, so no need to check quotes, and you can take credit for everyone else’s smart ideas. Not so recent example on Payment by Results.
- Guests: you’d think that guest bloggers would save you a lot of time, but it really depends on the blogger and your standards. My record to date is 10 drafts of a single post before I was willing to publish (naming no names…..). You can avoid grief by briefing in advance on what you’re looking for (here is my standard guidance-to-fp2p-guest-bloggers) and/or asking people to run bullet points by you rather than just send over 1000 words of incomprehensible development speak. Recent Example: Max Lawson on the World Bank and Inequality.
- Then of course, there’s always vlogging. 90 seconds on your phone and Bob’s Your Uncle – definitely the highest speed way to feed the blog beast. Recent example from Myanmar
Any other candidates?