Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Friday, 7 October 2011

Bristol BlogCamp

Yesterday was definitely a 'do something different kind of day' as I'd signed up for Bristol BlogCamp, held in the newly reopened sparkly M Shed - formerly the Industrial Museum - shown above. Our venue for the day was in the events area at the top of the building, so I'm sure some aerial views of this scene will be appearing over at Sign of the Times shortly :)

BlogCamp is the one of many brainchilds of Sally Whittle, whom some of you will already know through Tots100 and the MAD Awards. She's cleverly spotted there's a need for bloggers to not only get together and have a good natter, but also to find out a bit more about blogging itself. There's only so much you can do online - and often the information on there is conflicting anyway - and many of the events available are aimed at businesses, with a price tag to match.

This event was free. It had lunch. And... it had cake :)

A broad range of topics were covered and whilst much of these were aimed at working with companies and being more business-like about blogging, I'd say any blogger would find something of interest and useful from this kind of event.

Chris Mosler spoke about ethical blogging, both in terms of how it informs the voice and personality of her blog and also which companies and charities she chooses to work with. Elisabeth Winkler, then went back to basics with some reminders about why we blog and using these reasons to shine through in our words and pictures.

Phil Szomszor spoke about his recent research findings about the relationship between PR agencies and bloggers. Finally, Lee Smallwood not only defied the traditional post lunch slump but also made Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) entertaining [:o - Ed]. There was also plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss the issues we all face as bloggers throughout the day.

I won't summarise everything from each presentation as that would mean a very long post. Besides, I want to experiment with some of the things I've learned and share them with you at a later date. However, here's a few tips from yesterday to keep you going:
  • Be yourself, but act like you would in a public space
  • A blog is your own voice even when campaigning: writing a story around what I do is much more powerful than a preachy this is what you should do
  • Research the companies who approach you: if they don't fit with your content and/or ethics then politely decline. Always use the opportunity to explain why the answer's no
  • Do experiment and keep 'playing' to keep your blog fresh: write with a beginner's mind so you can share what you've learned
  • Make your blog easy on the eye: write short paragraphs with spaces between them; pay attention to spelling and punctuation; read your words aloud before you hit Publish
  • If you want to make money from your blog, then think about what your goals are as these will inform how you go about it and how long it might take. Have a look at the guidance from the NUJ on freelance writing rates (including online, though you will also need to take your experience and the publication into account) and the Blogger.Ed forum will be gathering information on rates actually obtained for advertising
  • The main ways PR companies currently find bloggers to work with are: manual searches; blogrolls and forums; and Twitter. Once they've found you, the main aspects looked at are: content relevance; post frequency; and comments
  • Around 19% of bloggers have had a PR company ask them to not mention anything negative about the product. Thankfully my experience has been quite the opposite and I believe the main strength of blogger:PR relationships is the opportunity to sort out any negative aspects of a product or its sales/after sales service
  • Consistency is vital in not only in what you write for your readers, SEO likes it too. Ensure the key words you use for your post are included in your post's title; your first and last paragraph (and every couple of hundred words if possible, but not at the expense of your writing style); your chosen image title(s) and its alt attribute. NB it's good practice to use the alt attribute for your readers too - the link to Wikipedia explains why
  • Search engines also like backlinks to your blog very much, so do keep on being sociable!
NB these events aren't just aimed at parent bloggers, but are open to anyone who doesn't blog commercially. There are other BlogCamps coming up as well as yesterday's in Bristol - the next one's in Brighton today - so it's worth checking out the website to see if one will be coming to a venue near you very soon.

Update: Here's a list of links to everyone who's posted about Thursday's event :)

Update 2: I found this interesting piece re SEO changes a few days after BlogCamp. Unique, useful and well-liked content will also be key in the future. This might be due to Google's moves to downgrade the importance of content mill pieces in returned search results?

Update 3: SEO advice needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as the search algorithms are constantly being tweaked. Therefore I'm continuing to write this blog for me a real people :)

Update 4: Sally and her team have re-branded Blogcamp, so the website is no longer available to link to. Probably best to find out about future blog seminars via the TOTS100 site.

17 comments:

  1. The alt attribute for images is a good idea, but I'm too lazy. I do put a caption on each image. Is that a compromise, or an illusion?

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  2. Hi EE - you'll see I've been lazy and not used the alt attribute either for this post! However, it's really useful for people with sight difficulties who use a web reader and if the picture can't be displayed for some reason. I'm not sure if the caption is picked up in those circumstances and of course it might vary with the blogging platform.

    I'll be investigating this more for a future post, where I'll compare how long it takes to dive into Blogger's HTML to add the attribute vs. how long it takes to add a caption. I suspect once you know how to do it, it won't take much longer.

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  3. A really interesting post. I didn't know about these Blog events. I'll have to keep a look out for any more events.

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  4. wellywoman - welcome! I didn't know about them until about 10 days ago via The Guardian's series about blogging. I'm sure even if you don't get to one this year, there'll be some next year too. In the meantime, keep an eye open on the BlogCamp website because links to everyone's posts about their experience may go up on there and you'll have a set of top tips to mull over.

    If you're on Twitter have a look at #BlogCamp - people are tweeting top tips from the event they're attending

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  5. Thanks for this, Veep. Mind you, I'm none the wiser about alt attribute after reading the Wiki link!

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  6. Hi Colleen - I think there's an opportunity for me to try and explain it better sometime soon :)

    It's a little bit of coding you can add to the HTML which displays text when you hover your mouse over a picture - a bit like an invisible caption. People using special software to 'read' websites to them will pick up the alt attribute so they know what the pictures about.

    If for some reason a picture can't be displayed (and we've also seen those awful blanks with the red cross in them), hovering your mouse over the picture should at least display some text in a little box to you, so you can get an idea of what the picture's about. That of course assumes, you've been informative in the text you've chosen to add!

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  7. Thanks for the write-up of the day - it was great seeing the tips pulled together - and glad my talk was useful.

    It is great to get together to talk about blogging as blogging can be a solitary experience. Like studying alone online and then meeting your fellow students - grrrrreat!

    PS The brilliant Lee Smallwood mentioned he did not like CAPTCHA but I must confess I love the words it generates. Such as the one I must type now, which is:

    lensubar

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  8. what i would find handy to attend is a 'rank beginners' intro on how to use blogger'! keep hoping the local public library will put one on ;)

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  9. Thanks for this post VP. There's so much in it that I immediately find interesting and useful.

    There aren't many day-schools or get-togethers that I feel I really need to go to / ought to go to / could truly benefit from going to (however many I reckon I would enjoy going to) - but this one seems an essential . . . Unfortunately, when I looked at the venues I found none are practical for me - but I'll keep a look out and, in the meantime, muddle on!

    Are the Guardian articles worth hunting down?

    Yes, please do a post about this alt. thingy.

    Esther

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  10. That's interesting Michelle. I've been invited to do a talk for Pembrokeshire libraries on blogging for Dad's and Lads. We shall have to compare notes.

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  11. Petoskystone - what a shame we don't live nearer each other as that's just what I'm putting together - 'all the things I wish I'd known before I started blogging'!

    Esther - I so nearly missed this, but so glad I found out about it in time. So happy to share a mere fragment of the day with you - I'm sure other bits and bobs will appear in due course as well as the alt attribute info :)

    Mark - I'm definitely up for comparing notes, especially as I have a similar invitation to Christian Malford WI!

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  12. PS Esther - here's the link to The Guardian's series so you can see if it's of interest:

    How to build a profitable blog

    I'm itching to leave a comment on the online version but they're not allowing them. Whilst the infoo may be useful, the trial itself may be flawed because being a series for The Guardian will attract much more interest from potential sponsors than people like you and I could hope to attract.

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  13. Thanks for sharing, I hadnt heard of blogcamp. Whilst I had learnt about SEnc thingies through Yell some of the other stuff looks interesting

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  14. Add caption is the lazy way out, there is a button to click and it's done. That's why you sometimes see pictures labelled 'Add Caption'. They clicked, got distracted and published without checking.

    The Alt thing is a much more laborious tadunk tadunk tadunk ...

    Would love to hear from someone who actually uses this Alt info. A reader rather than a dutiful blogger.

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  15. PG - it was a good day. I think there might be one coming up in Birmingham, which you might like to consider.

    EE - the amount of effort needed depends on how you're using Blogger. For example, I'm going into the HTML to alter the picture size anyway, so adding the alt attribute won't take much more to do than adding the caption in the way you do.

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  16. PS EE - I don't have a reader response, but I went on a writing for the web course yesterday where the alt attribute was discussed quite a bit. There were a couple of people there from charities supporting the disabled who pretty much pleaded with us to use the alt attribute as it made life so much easier and inclusive for people who need to use a web reader.

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  17. NB Blogger have now included the ability to use the alt attribute directly :)

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