Tuesday 25 October 2016

One year of ALD History Blog: some learnings

One year ago, I became a blogger: ALD History Blog was created on October 25, 2015 (it went public on October 28).

ALD History Blog was created predominantly to help in the coordination of the Virtual Project on the History of ALD (VPHA). Before the blog, I used email for coordination and additionally published short notes in Twitter (as @rlpuu) and in the LinkedIn ALD History group. Clear benefits of a blog are e.g. the wealth of contents that can be included (e.g., length of post, links, pictures, videos, ...) and the unlimited internet access/search engine visibility.

Blogging - similarly as the coordination of the VPHA - has brought along many new experiences and learnings. A year after starting the blog, I thought it would be a good idea to summarise the main learnings, to help others who might consider starting a topical science blog.

  1. ALD History Blog is powered by blogger.com. That I ended up using Blogger as the platform was largely because of the example of the BALD Engineering Blog and the advise by Dr. Jonas Sundqvist (thank you Jonas for having helped me to get started!). There are other options available and as I have not used them, I cannot comment on their usability. From Blogger, I can say that for someone with no earlier experience in blogging or website administration (I have just a bit with vph-ald.com), Blogger has been an easy choise and logical to use.
    • Learning: I could choose to use blogger.com again.
  2. In Blogger, the blog is public by default as created. Often, it is nice to build some contents to a blog, before going fully public with it. "Not listed on Blogger. Not visible to search engines" works if you want to have initial privacy.
    • Learning: As the first thing, you can change the Privacy settings of the blog.  
  3. One can group posts by adding keywords ("labels" in Blogger). With time, these keywords create a "keyword cloud", where you can click items to find posts on a specific topic. For example, to find posts labelled with "Suntola", just click on Suntola in the keyword cloud located at the right side of the blog. (The keyword cloud of ALD History Blog is rather long, I admit...) One does not need to be too afraid of making "mistakes" with keywords, though: keywords can be added and changed afterwards. 
    • Learning: Give thought to which keywords to use and use them systematically.  
  4. In addition to blog posts, one can also create "pages".  I have created "pages" for conferences, reviews, list of posts, and ALD abbreviations. The most visited page of the ALD History Blog is the ALD conference list, which gets regularly updated. (I have not figured out completely, how Blogger selects the internet address of a "page". Somehow it is related to the title of the page at the time of first pre-viewing the page.)
    • Learning: "Pages" is a useful feature for contents that will be regularly updated.   
  5. One can choose, whether reader comments are moderated. I have used Blogger's suggestion of 2 weeks without registration/moderation, and with moderation thereafter. This has been a good option. I have not gotten very many comments to the posts, but when there have been, the relevant ones have come quickly, within days. To some of the old posts, I still get unrelated comments (=spam) by people wanting to advertise their own activities which have nothing to do with the topic of the blog post or the ALD History in general. 
    • Learning: 2 weeks unmoderated comments and moderated comments thereafter, works fine. 
  6. A Twitter account accompanies ALD History Blog. A fact is (in the case of the ALD History Blog, anyway), that a blog post does not get much attention unless it is shared. Before the ALD History Blog (and some time after it), I shared all ALD-history-related contents through my own Twitter account. The function of a separate Twitter account @aldhistoryblog is to share all posts of ALD History Blog. Favouriting, discussion and retweeting I still do with my own account. (Some may say that it is difficult to use Twitter with many accounts. I have solved this problem by (i) using separate internet browsers for different accounts and (ii) discussing almost only through my personal account.) 
    • Learning: A separate Twitter account can help create structure in Twitter to posts related to a specific topic. 

Before starting the ALD History Blog, I hesitated for quite a long time whether or not to start the blog. I was concerned, whether I will have enough to say. What if blogging will stop before it really started? In hindsight, blogging has been an interesting and valuable (and a bit time-consuming) experience/hobby. The blog has most likely significantly increased the worldwide impact of the VPHA. I am happy that I started ALD History Blog and I could consider starting another blog for another topic in the future.

Espoo, Finland, October 25, 2016
Riikka Puurunen

Virtual Project on the History of ALD (VPHA) - in atmosphere of Openness, Respect, and Trust

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