When I started my old blog, Grandview Watch, I didn’t have a clue about the format of my posts. I just wrote what I wanted, there was no framework behind the content. In 2003 there was little history to the medium, we were all making it up as we posted.
Blogging is still a relatively new medium, still in the process of forging the vernacular and tools that are effective in making good posts. I did some searching on the issue, and thought about what I liked in blog posts. Here are some rules, in no particular order of importance.
Write so posts can be quickly scanned
We all live in a hyper-active, media saturated world, time constrained by our work and family obligations. There is a constant conflict between the need for short, summarized content, and the fully developed, long form work that gives readers a more nuanced story. A good post can do both, using highlighted section titles and bold sentences to allow a fast scan of the content. Writing that is done with searches in mind, and tagging so that crossover content is associated with all appropriate tags, helps readers.
Content must be timely
A blog post about a council move to allow chickens to be raised in the city is most valuable while the issue is first being discussed by the members. It will start with a motion presented before the council, or sometimes just a “FYI comment” in the meeting. The first post on the topic should be made shortly after the issue goes public.
A postmortem after the motion is passed or defeated may be a better discussion of all angles to the issue, but is useful more as a historical marker. Those wrap-up posts do have value, they show us the process and procedures that the council and the board uses to work through an issue. Board members who are leaders get identified, the members who form alliances are noted, those who resort to emotional grandstanding are marked down.
Posting a blog article at the leading edge of a new issue may get some facts wrong or ignore some valid viewpoints. Later revisions can correct mistakes, links can be added to further posts on the topic. I consider all posts to be first drafts, up for revision as new facts are found.
Bring order to the deluge
A blog that covers a narrow topic like this one (the policies and politics of the school board and city council) would seem to have a limited base of content to filter. When you total them all up, it is a substantial flow. There are meeting notes, both from the board and council, and from various sub-committees. There are stories in three newspapers, and various letters sent to these papers from government officials and concerned citizens. There are government agencies outside the city that produce reports on the city and school. Full research can include email exchanges with board and council members.
A print reporter may use all of the above, while enduring pressure from groups that want their bias upheld in the way the story is researched and presented. Reporters do have biases, they are not writing machines. I may have similar pressure applied to me, but because this is not my vocation, I don’t have a boss threatening my job. I also have no paycheck from blogging, so the time I can devote to the blog has to be secondary to my full-time work.
A good blog post summarizes as much related content as I can filter, and presents it with an honest bias.
Related – What makes a good blog comment.