Online or off-limits? 10 ways to improve your blog life @richardlittleda

Blogging? Hmm – isn’t the province of the horribly twee (“ten things my hamster taught me about life”) or the hopelessly atavistic (“what you need to know about my week”)? Of course it can be, but it needn’t be so. In fact, blogs find their origins in some pretty serious eyewitness newsgathering, such as the blogger of Bhagdad.

I first started blogging in October 2009, as a means to support my column in the Baptist Times.  The blog gave people an opportunity to respond to the column, and created a forum where discussion could be held.  The blog is particularly aimed at those involved in communication, preaching and church life, and has been steadily growing.  To date it has had over 9500 visitors, from the UK, America, Australia, and even Saudi Arabia!  Some of those commenting have been Christians, and others have not.  Over the months we have had particularly interesting discussions about persecution and suffering, preparing to preach, and the question of Christian behaviour online.

The latter is set to become more and more important.  Whilst there is an emerging etiquette about how we should behave online – centring around issues to do with due attribution and responding to each other, there is a debate yet to be had about online ethics.  There are issues to be considered about authenticity, integrity between our online and offline personae, and the moral responsibility which arises from knowing about the needs of others.

Projects like the BigRead (for Lent 2011, see http://archive.bigbible.uk) will allow a vast, borderless discussion to unfold centred around God’s word could be good for all of us.  I talked to Bex Lewis who runs the project:

‘People can get very comfortable talking to the same people over time, and The Big Read offers the opportunity to be challenged by talking to others across the country (possibly even globally) who are engaging with the same material as you. I come from a ‘Blended Learning’ background, where we look to mix the best of online and offline materials – in this case the Lent book written by Tom Wright, face-to-face housegroups, mixed with the chance for ‘bigger conversations’ online… and as this article will appear both in print and on the BigBible blog.’

Unfettered by limits of geography or church affiliation, we can contribute to a giant discussion on these topics of spiritual import. What could be better?

For those contemplating a venture into the world of blogging, here are some tips, based on my own experience and mistakes.

  1. Focus Choose what your blog is about, and stick to it. This does not have to absolutely rigid, since occasionally a story will catch your eye – but people should know what to find on your blog.
  2. If in doubt, don’t.  If you don’t have anything worthwhile to write today, then wait until tomorrow – your readers will thank you for it.
  3. Brevity is beautiful – a post which fills up more than one computer screen will have to be exceptionally good if people are going to read it to the end.
  4. Comment is two-way Always respond to those who are kind enough to comment on your blog. If you don’t agree with their comment & don’t want to get into an argument – just acknowledge it.
  5. Multi-media Most blog platforms allow for the ready inclusion of pictures, video and sound – use these to keep it interesting ,but always acknowledge your sources.
  6. Online is public You may not think that anyone in your church will read what you write, but they may…and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it anyway.
  7. Be sociable Take time to visit other people’s blogs from your own and comment on them. It takes time, but this is a sure-fire way to grow your blog.
  8. Advertise If you believe that what you have written is worth reading, then let people know about it through means such as Facebook and Twitter. They don’t have to follow it up, so you are not imposing on them. If, on the other hand, you do not think it is worth reading – then why publish it anyway?
  9. Timing – the key times of day for people to read items online are at lunchtime and early evening. Think of posting at those times.
  10. Peccator Foriter – a motto of Luther’s which means ‘sin boldly’ – and is an injunction to all of us to “have a go”.  The online world will be more blessed by Christians contributing and sometimes getting it wrong, than by them not contributing at all.

Bex wanted to chip in here, and note that

11.  Allow Time ‘For the Big Bible Project, I started the blog (and Twitter) as soon as possible (August 2010), so that we could start to build up visitors and interest in the project as it developed. With steady input, we now have over 3500 visitors a month  –  with 50% staying for at least 3 minutes.. good going for a blog!’

So, we both say, give it a go, and just imagine what the world would look like if Christians were blogging about their everyday lives…

This article has been published simultaneously in the Baptist Times and on the BigBible blog.

About bigbible

The #BigBible Project. Educating in the digital spaces, creating 'bigger Bible conversations' between #digidisciple(s). Look out for #bigread14.