Sunday, January 11, 2009

31 Day Challenge - Update

In a brief pause from the flow of posts about the Wikified English project (here and here) it's high time for me to own up to the fact I'm participating in the 31 Day Challenge - and the fact that I'm already a couple of days behind, typical. Late last year I started Teach42's 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger, but life got in the way and I didn't finish it :( This time I am determined to see it through.

So, my first lot of reflections as I try and catch up...

Day One - Email a New Reader

From what I can tell most of my readers are people whose paths I cross via Twitter, Classroom20, or other blogs I've left comments on. So, usually my 'new readers' are people I have already connected with, needless to say that does not stop me from acknowledging comments and emails left for me (not that there's many). If the reader is someone I don't happen to have on my Google list or Twitter followings I generally add them in there too.

When comments are made on my posts I reply to comments to thank and extend the conversation and I message or email the person as well.

Day Two - Run a 'First Time Reader Audit'

I am ALWAYS nervous about people commenting on my blog. It seems strange really, I'm writing this blog in order to share with an open audience and yet I worry I'll end up in someone's firing line. During the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger process one of the steps I got stuck on was getting someone to read over and give me some feedback. Probably, because of my hesitation to push the matter with the people I asked.

Yesterday I called out to my Twitter network to see if anyone would give me a hand and help me conduct my audit. Patrick Black and Sue Waters both raised their hands and before I knew it I had some really helpful feedback sitting in my inbox. Thanks so much to both these wonderful people!

Patrick's feedback was really positive and he emphasised the clean cut layout. This was something I've always been worried about - I hate crowding things and kept things as simple as possible for a purely selfish reason.

Sue's feedback focused more on the need to redirect my RSS through Feedburner and a couple of adjustments to my Retaggr widget. Funnily enough, I had a Feedburner account just sitting there doing nothing - this afternoon I fixed that up and the RSS Feed button to the right is now redirected through it. I also adjusted the size of the Retaggr widget, and hopefully this fixes the issue Sue mentioned she was having - if anyone can't read the right hand side of it, could you please let me know? Thinking ahead she also suggested I consider investigating a way to include tabs to different pages along the top of the blog - honestly, I'd love to have this option and I've often wondered "How..." when I've seen the EduBlogs and Wordpress blogs with them, so this will be a long term goal for me.

I'm pretty happy with the feedback and it wasn't as scarey as I was worried about :) Again, thanks to Sue and Patrick for their help.

Day Three - Search For and Join a Forum

This one was easy! I joined Classroom20 and the Oz/NZ Educator's Network before I started this blog and I still trawl the forums and blogs over there on a daily basis. From there I branched out into Twitter and started filling my Google Reader with people's blogs. My online network of fellow educators is an amazing source of information, support and inspiration - I'd be lost without them now!

Day Four - Interlink Archived Posts

I generally try to include links to relevant posts within my entries - but I am going to go on a search for a Blogger alternative to the "Related Posts" add in I've seen on Wordpress users' blogs.

Day Five - Conduct an 'About Page' Audit

I added the Retaggr widget during the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger project last year, and try to update it regularly. Writing my profile, "this is me" bit, is something I hate doing but also see as incredibly important - it's the first real impression (beyond the look of my blog) that people will get of me. During his audit Patrick noted that my email address isn't obvious on the front page, however it is on my Blogger profile and accessible through the Contact/Connect button on my Retaggr card.

Wow, mammoth effort, but I think that brings me _almost_ up to speed with the the challenge will be to stay on top of it!


Sue Waters said...

Nic - You've opened my eyes to an aspect of blogging that I hadn't appreciated.

During the Comment Challenge we discovered that many bloggers are reluctant to comment on other people's blog not because of time constraints but because of feeling comfortable that they might be judged.

But hadn't considered that people might feel uncomfortable with comments being left on their blog. Which is really important to understand because you need to consider all these aspects when using blogs with students. Thanks for sharing this reflection.

Personally I don't like the related post feature that some people use on Wordpress. It's okay if it links to your older posts but not if it links to posts on other blogs.

Well done for catching up :)

Nic Mobbs said...

Thanks, Sue. As one of the 'gurus' in my PLN your feedback and help in auditing my blog counts as HUGE in my world. :)

Mrs. D said...

Hey Nic -

Wow, talk about jump right in:) I really like your honest response to the challenges. I too have a rss feed just sitting there. I tried to set it up and something kept going wrong when I was adding it to my sidebar. I'm going to try again to get it working.

Glad you joined us!


Nic Mobbs said...

Thanks for the comment, Lisa. I find it so frustrating when things go wrong and I can't figure out the solution - which is probably what happened with the feedburner link the first time! Looking forward to reading more of your reflections throughout the challenge :)

Beck said...

Hi Nic,
It seems that you are a few days ahead of me. I'm finding that just doing Day 1 is taking a great deal of time. (this is good - time put in means more that I get out of it)

Most of my teaching in recent years has been related to mathematics, though I do get to support teachers and classes in other areas. Over the past 9 months, most blogs that I have found to be full of great ideas have been 'English' blogs, so I'll definitely be adding yours to my reader.

Good luck in the project, I'll be keeping my eye on your progress and thank you for commenting on my blog.

Beck said...

I didn't realise that my ID is different on Blogger. I must correct that soon.

Beck = Colin Becker

Pam Thompson said...

Hi Nic. You've made a great start on the challenge - making me feel a bit slack. Your blog is looking very neat and clear to follow. I have a feedburner link on my class blog but had trouble getting one on my personal blog, and I have to admit that I, too, gave up.

Keep up the good work.

Magical Bill said...

Hi Nic,

You have some good things to say in your blog.

I'm trying to keep up with all the reading while staying focused on the day's task.

But so many fascinating things come up and you just have to stop and have a look.

I know from past experience that if I place them in a bookmrk folder called sites to go back to that it just won't happen.

Regards, Bill Oldham

Magical Bill said...

for static pages in blogger, try here for for a guide:

Regards, Bill Oldham

jeanettem said...

Hi Nic

Wow - haven't you been a very busy e-bee:) Having read your day 2 task I am now going to ask a 'pro-blogger' to provide me with a technical audit. Thanks for that!

Nic Mobbs said...

Wow...I am blown away with the support from you all. Thank you.

dish-mop-top said...

Nice work Nic. Your blog is looking very spiffy! Clear and easy to follow.
Your fellow '31 days' participant...
Jenny W