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Constructive criticism?

  1. My blog, Hodoeporics, is now eight-weeks old, and I could really use some criticism to improve it.

    The idea was to keep an informative blog. In particular, a blog marked by a cosmopolitan intent to provide interesting news, perspectives (including controversial or taboo topics), facets of a given society and different kinds of information about countries and cultures all over the world, without assuming a judgmental point of view. [Hodoeporics means 'travel narrative']

    I'm also interested in science and maths news - but I try to limit those to news and topic that could interest or at least intrigue the average reader. Photography and animals/nature are frequent topics too. I regularly add a "light" humor or "strange-but-true" post to balance the overall tone of the blog.

    What do you think? What do you think works and what doesn't? Opinions, suggestions and criticism are welcome. I'm trying to keep a blog I like, but want also to ensure it is also useful/enjoyable to readers.

    Link: http://hroswith.wordpress.com

    The main difficulty I am finding is keeping it appropriate for readers that come from all over the world. Another problem is expressing opinions: I noticed it is harder to start discussion about the topics I post if I try to keep a neutral view about them. How could I encourage my readers to discuss openly the topics I post? I'm given the impression that by keeping opinions fair and relative readers don't feel intrigued enough to state their views. Is that so?

    Again, your opinion is welcome. Thanks for your time.

  2. Hroswith,

    I took a look at your blog. The most recent post was "Animals between myth and reality", and i was surprised when i was taken to National Geographic to read more about the camel spider. I think perhaps a little more obvious disclosure that the writing is not your own work is in order (the use of italics is not enough).

    Are you trying to just provide a place for people to find interesting articles, or are you writing any original content?

  3. Hi. Thanks for taking the time to have a look, although I was hoping on an opinion based on the overall aspect of the blog rather than on just a single post. I appreciate your point, though. It's a valid one.

    To answer your question, I share information - and quote my sources, be they on-line sources (such as was the National Geographic in my last post) or book references. I share both interesting articles I find (which is what blogging was about at least in the origins, i.e. directing your readers to interesting information) and original content. (Please note I do not limit myself to italic, but the block-quote thingy too... I use all visual means available to stress when a paragraph or sentence is a quote!)

    Usually, if I share an article coming from an external source, I write a paragraph to introduce it, contextualizing and/or summarizing it. Also, when I want to share articles I collect several on the same topic. This research work takes a long time often, much more than sharing my thoughts and opinions on a certain matter. Also, I think an article written by a professional in a certain field is probably more interesting to my readers than my own opinion.

    I read all my sources and quote bits or paragraphs of them as appropriate, linking to the original article in case the reader wants to read it all (and because credits are obviously due). In any case, the parts I quote typically contain the interesting part I wanted to highlight and share.

    I say so to clarify that I don't simply copy and paste random articles written by others. I do research, and once I am informed enough on a certain topic, I select a range of articles, then edit and organize them in a collage, ready for readers. If readers are curious, I provide them not only with sources, but further links to similar topics they may be interested in.

    This is my personal interpretation of what hypertext means. :-/ I'm curious to know how it affects readers, i.e. does it have a negative impact for some reason?

    I am aware a blog all about my personal opinions would be more popular, but this is not a personal blog - I'm more interested in sharing information and leaving it to readers to form their own opinion. I think this is the distinction between a journal (personal) and a blog (more objective articles).

    Anyway, I do publish also entirely original contents, both written and photographic. If you scroll down the page you'll find some examples.

    To clarify my position: I don't suffer from a lack of originality. I am a professional writer. :) But I am also an ex-academic. To me my blog is supposed to work like research.

    Maybe that's the problem with my blog? Is it a legit attitude?

  4. I went back and looked through your blog again :-)

    You have chosen a nice mixture of topics, some of which are controversial, but i think it's the presentation that doesn't really inspire debate. People want to have an idea of who they would be talking to, even if that "person" is more of a corporate entity like the BBC. You can inspire more debate by merely inserting a request for comments, perhaps in the introductory paragraph that you append to the article.

    I noticed that you are scrupulous about citing sources, which is great. You may want to go an extra step and include a text widget at the very top of the sidebar that explains what you're trying to do with this blog. I don't want to belabor the point, but in the particular theme you're using, block quotes don't jump out at the reader.

    One more thing specific to the mythical animals post: when i clicked on the "continue reading" link, it took me a moment to realize i was no longer on your site (despite the opening of a new window), and i was annoyed at having to then click "expand for more" in order to actually continue reading. I realize Nat Geo is not within the realm of your control, but perhaps if the link had said "continue reading at National Geographic" the extra clicking would have been more understandable. Maybe that's just me.

    Overall, though, i think you have a good site. :-)

  5. Thanks for your tips and suggestions! It was quite helpful.

    I agree with you about the presentation. :-/ It does look too impersonal. I should try to combine information from attendible sources AND a more personal approach, inviting readers to share their views and opinions. Some sort of direct interaction.

    The text widget idea to explain the motivations and philosophy of the blog would be great, too. That would certainly help.

    I'll see if I can fix these things. :) Thanks so much for your time and advice. It was quite helpful.

  6. Good; i'm glad

  7. @hroswith

    I'm going to give my advice and the urls' to 3 of my blogs so you can see examples.

    http://timethief.wordpress.com
    http://bloggersblurt.wordpress.com
    http://treefrogblog.wordpress.com

    1. An About Page can provide a variety of information and links to other pages to assist the readers. They can be used to let your readers know:

      about the blogger(s);
      about the nature of the blog;
      about how readers can subscribe to the blog.

    2. A Comment Page can be useful too.

      It can advise readers of your policy (moderated or not - email addresses required but not posted, or not required).
      It can also contain how to instructions for readers regarding formatting comments.

    3. A Disclaimer Page may be worth considering and a Contact Page is a must.

    4. Be sure sure you also avoid these pitfalls:

      Too many posts on the front page (too slow to load).
      Too many images on the front page (too slow to load).
      Too many animated icons, video embeds, etc. on the front page (too slow to load).
      Cluttered appearance - too many text widgets full of sidebar "tat" and clutter distract the reader away from your blog posts. "Tat" is all sidebar contents that readers cannot use for navigation.
      Broken links.
      Not updating frequently enough.

    A blogger friend of mine has a post that I'd like to recommend to you. It's a compilation of reader input for the 15 must haves for a great blog. http://thebritgirl.com/2007/03/08/top-15-must-haves-for-a-great-blog/

  8. timethief, thanks for the advice and examples. They definitely make sense.

    I found them quite useful, and I'll put an effort and tailor the blog to readers as you suggested. Thanks so much for the help and your clarity. :)

  9. You're welcome and happy blogging! :)

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