The result of a Liebster Award

Liebster AwardCarrying on from the old fashioned chain letter that tormented me in my childhood, the concept has continued online. I’m actually flattered to be chosen for the Leibster Award, where bloggers nominate blogs (or their writers) they have taken a liking to, as it shows people do read my stuff! Actually it wasn’t this blog I was nominated for, so I’m selfishly using this blog as it fits in better with the following post!

Many thanks go to Proofed by Linds for nominating me. Actually I’m going spoil things by saying she was the second person to nominate my nature blog, and I’ve only just got around to fulfilling the requirements of the Liebster Award.

It works by the nominator giving me 11 questions to answer, I add on 11 random facts about myself, and then I select 11 more questions for another 11 bloggers to answer in their Liebster Award post. You can see where the chain letter concept fits in. It is a bit of fun, and has no real function, but you never know, people might like what I’ve written. (And I do feel a little guilty that it’s in this blog and not the nature one I was recommended for.)

1. What’s your favourite food and why?

I’m such a glutton I want to say all kinds of food, which has caused my downfall with weight most of my life. So my attitude towards food has changed over the years, depending on whether it’s good for me or not. Of course my favourite would be what I’m not allowed to have, like chocolate, taramasalata and cheese (not all together at the same time), though even these in strict moderation wouldn’t be that bad…?

2. Where do you go when you want to “get away from it all”?

If it’s a beautiful day a walk in the countryside with lots of wild flowers (hence the nature blog). If it’s the midst of winter, somewhere cosy with a log fire. In both cases a valuable distraction is necessary to make it feel worth while.

3. What three things would you take to your desert island and why?

I suppose these would be skills as well as material things. Knowing how to make a fire, catch your food and build suitable shelter would be invaluable. Having a practical, sharp knife would be vital. A book about the properties of plants and how they can help you might come in useful.

4. People blog for a variety of reasons… What are your reasons?

This is a very good question. I blog because I have an overwhelming desire to tell people stuff. Sometimes it’s to get things off my chest. Sometimes it’s to explore an idea or concept. But mostly it’s to pass on knowledge to others so they can benefit from it, or to gain pleasure from what I enjoy talking about too.

5. Give three qualities that you believe make up a good blog post

An excellent headline to attract attention to your post and generate a desire to read it. A conversational style that flows easily and guides the reader effortlessly down the page. A totally worth-while subject that is easily grasped, understood and valued for what it really is.

6. What really makes you laugh – right from the belly?

Clever humour. It has to be subtle as well as downright silly. It has to be delivered in a way that’s not meant to be funny. It has to surprise and catch me unawares.

7. What annoys you more than anything else?

Bad form. Inadequacy passed off as superior. Undue inappropriate criticism. Unnecessary stupidity being given a higher prominence than it deserves.

8. What’s number one on your bucket list?

To visit all the countries of the world I haven’t been to yet.

9. Who inspires you?

People who have been successful through their own merit, hard work and perseverance. This doesn’t have to be in the world of business, but in self-discovery, helping others and changing the world for the better.

10. What would you say to King Henry VIII if you could?

It depends how much I could say without getting my head cut off! I suppose I would tell him that one of the greatest monarchs England has ever had came from his loins, but not who he thinks it would be.

11. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

To put yourself in the other person’s situation, in order to see the world from their point of view. Many disputes and arguments would be solved (or never arise) if this was taken into consideration; we are nearly always too self-centered to stand back and view the situation as a whole. This also includes listening, learning and appreciating before you open your mouth, even if it appears to undermine yourself; the benefits should outweigh the inconvenience created.

11 random facts about me

  1. When I was 18 months old I burned my left hand so badly I was forced to become right handed.
  2. I was wrapped up in my own little world until the age of 13.
  3. I had a speech impediment and had speech therapy for 3 years. Also I find it difficult to read aloud due to dyslexia.
  4. I studied music for my degree. I was rubbish at playing instruments, so I composed instead. I was never any good at music, but I didn’t realise this properly until I arrived at university, which by then it was too late!
  5. When I worked at Sadler’s Wells, the administrative offices were situated in the house of my great, great, great, great uncle Charles Dibdin (Jnr) who was director of Sadler’s Wells in the early 19th century.
  6. I can trace three of my family trees back to at least 1720.
  7. I absolutely hate peanut butter. It is the most disgusting food ever!
  8. I believe I am a Norman, whereas my husband is a Viking.
  9. As a young girl I learned how to knit, sew, do cross-stitch and design samplers.
  10. It seems at the moment my wardrobe mostly consists of various shades of purple.
  11. I absolutely adore all kinds of fish, both to look at and to eat!

11 nominated bloggers
(who can participate only if they want to, no pressure…)

Birds on the Blog

Maria Hastings Personal Stylist

Success Network

Zest Lifestyle

Socialable

Nikki Pilkington

Ace Inspire

Diksha Fix Me

Tom Evans

Doreen Gowing

Fiona Humberstone

11 questions for my 11 bloggers

  1. What was your favourite pet and what was its name?
  2. What was your school life like?
  3. Have you visited anywhere exotic?
  4. When you say the word ‘scone’, does it rhyme with ‘stone’ or ‘john’, and does this really matter?
  5. Which famous person would you have liked to have met, and why?
  6. What makes you get up enthusiastically in the mornings?
  7. What’s the colour you hate the most, and why?
  8. What’s your biggest phobia (if you have any)?
  9. Do you prefer winter, spring, summer or autumn?
  10. If you won a £million in the lottery, what would you spend it on?
  11. Who in your family do you mostly resemble, and in what way?

Phew, that was actually a very difficult post to write – I hope it was worth it!

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To comment or not to comment, it’s all about interaction

One of the aspects of a blog is that it is interactive. This means readers are able to contribute to your blog if they have something to say. Blogging programmes automatically add an area after posts where readers can add their point of view. The ability to comment is also part of the phenomenon Web2.0, which is about interaction on the web.

So, what is special about blogs and commenting? Ordinary websites don’t have areas to put your point across, unless it’s a form to leave your details or send an email. Therefore what you have written is not automatically showed to you afterward for others to read, something that naturally occurs on a blog (unless the blog’s administrator wants to moderate your comment first, to make sure it isn’t spam).

But why should you comment on blogs? Apart from sharing your opinions, your comment may increase the value of the blog post, making it more interest to other readers. The author may also be inclined to respond, and starting a conversation – all adding to the entertainment factor.

Another thing to note, comments are viewed by the search engine spiders as new material, so the more interaction, the more the blog post goes up the search engines.

Comments can vary in content, as their authors can agree or disagree with the topic of the post. As long as you continue to be polite and forthcoming, and your contribution is relevant and resourceful, any comment is good. Sometimes comments lead onto other blog posts, especially if backed up by links. As spiders thrive on links, there are opportunities for comment authors to leave their details.

How do you induce a comment? Simply ask for one, as sometimes it won’t occur to the reader to leave one otherwise. Positioning a question at the bottom of your post may also encourage a response, as well as controversial subject matter. Those who comment are usually used to interaction on the net, and are likely to be avid social networkers, but anything that stimulates a reader to take action is advantageous.

Why is it good to comment? If you want to find your way in your chosen field, visit as many relevant blogs and leave a comment where you can. Then you will begin to get noticed by other bloggers and blog readers, and commenting will also enable you to link back to your blog or website, thus increasing your visitor rate. If you get a name for yourself by leaving good quality comments, visitors are more likely to visit to read your articles, subscribe to your blog and even leave comments themselves.

RSS simply explained

When I asked for feedback on what people wanted to know about blogs and blogging, many of them wanted to know about RSS. The main question being what is RSS?

So here is an explanation of those who do not know:

RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, is easily recognisable through the orange square icon found at the top of most blogs’ sidebars.

It is like a subscription service, enabling your followers to receive any new material you’ve written as soon as it’s published. It saves you time and makes it easy for you to keep up with new stuff without having to search all your favourite blogs for it.

Think of it like subscribing to a magazine: the new post (or message) gets delivered straight to you, either via email into your in-box, or into search engine readers if you’ve subscribed via that method.

RSScookiesA search engine reader provides pages with links to newly available posts, or individual ‘cookies’ on the search engine homepage which lists the last three posts of that blog through headline links.

Apart from allowing your followers to keep track of your new material, RSS also has other uses, mainly through social media.

When you publish a new blog post, it can be ‘fed’ into your social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter. This means that each new message appears as a link automatically in these sites. The RSS feed delivers your new content in this format for your followers to read.

In Facebook the whole post is published in the Notes pages, and your Homepage or Status page shows the headline link (known as a permalink) with perhaps the first few lines of the post as a taster.

In Twitter your post is listed as the title and the first few words, followed by a tinyurl (or reduced link) to the blog post. As a Twitter message uses only 140 characters, there will not be room for the whole permalink, so various methods are used to shorten it.

TwitterfeedsRSS is important if you wish to increase your readership or encourage more interest from search engines. It is a piece of software that encourages the search engine spiders to follow your blog, and automatically spreads your news throughout the web. Without it your blog would appear lifeless as only those who are invited would get a chance to read it, and only if they bothered to visit it regularly. RSS automatically delivers your messages without effort, saves time and encourages a new readership, especially through social media.

If you want to find out how to include RSS into your blog, I have written a blogging visual e-course on the subject, called “Setting up a RSS feed = how to set up RSS feed so others can follow your blog posts”. You can view it from my blogging pages, and will be available to buy, along with the other e-courses, from September, so watch this space!

Alice Elliott of Design Your Marketing has created a series of visual e-courses to help you set up and maintain a blog from WordPress.com. They are designed to take you through the blogging journey either completely from the beginning, or to allow you to dip into those areas you are unsure of, or would like to know more. They should be ready to purchase from September 2009.

How are blogging and teeth similar?

Blogging as like flossing your teeth, you need do it fairly regularly to maintain your oral hygiene (or marketing awareness). It doesn’t need to be done everyday like brushing your teeth (or working on your marketing strategy), but you need to keep it up if you want a nice smile (or well marketed business).

Nobody likes looking at yellow teeth (neglected blog) or being subjected to bad breath (badly composed posts). Fluoride in your toothpaste (sharing your expertise) will encourage a broad smile (widely promoting your business) which will attract friends (more customers).

Your body, like your blog, needs good nutrition (interesting and valuable content) to result in a healthy disposition (frequently read blog). And regular exercise (internet research) will help you find suitable material, as both stimulate the brain!

What is the difference between an article and a blog post?

An article is a lengthy piece of writing, written in an expert’s point of view, aimed at explaining a topic in great detail. A blog post is a shorter piece of writing, usually in a ‘conversational’ style, aimed at updating or educating your readers, or to spark ideas and interest in your business.

Articles are produced to promote the author’s expertise and prowess at writing and research, hence why they are long. A blog post should take one subject and explain it succinctly within a few short paragraphs, written from multiple view-points to gain the comprehension of the reader.

Articles can vary in length, and even though they are online, are designed to be printed out for leisurely reading. Blog posts are meant to be read immediately. The subject should be introduced within the headline and first sentence, and the concept within the first paragraph. As most blog readers only read the first 25% of a post, or spend an average of 96 seconds, getting the jist across at the very beginning is important to achieve your post being read in full.

Twitter has minimalised this even further (hence why it’s called micro-blogging). There are just 140 characters to get your point across and capture your reader’s interest, but you do have the advantage of interaction: a tinyurl link can be added to direct the reader to a blog post or article for further reading.

What are your blogging barriers?

Many people have told me that they are afraid to start blogging. Digging further into this revealed a number of different fears, and not necessarily about the technology side, which I thought was the main reason. Yes, technology is a hindrance, but it is something that can eventually be overcome with guidance. It is the psychological aspects that can be real barriers.

One psychological area is how you appear to your public. Are you as good as your peers, so is what you write worth reading? Everybody else seems to have such intelligent things to say, and your little contribution will be swamped.

Not so! If you are really passionate about your subject, and know it inside out, what you write about will always be interesting to others. You are the expert here, so why not let others know about it? What you think is just ordinary may be totally new to others, especially if you are able to explain it in a different way to the other bloggers.

Another way to overcome this barrier is to watch and listen (read) other blogs, and follow (or subscribe to) experts as they regularly post. This passive observation will enable you to understand more about how others talk about their businesses, how they publicise their benefits and solutions, and how they increase their visibility and therefore their reputation.

It will enable you to sort out the real experts from the time-wasters who have nothing particular to say, and the latter should fire you up in to producing your own viewpoint to counteract their crass statements. Don’t just sit there stewing, correct it within your own blog!

Another way to contribute your two-pence-worth is through commenting. If you like what someone has posted (or even disagree), then leave a comment! It doesn’t have to be much, but it does have to be more than just ‘Nice post’.

I advise always to be polite, complimentary or forthcoming, even if you are totally disagreeing, to maintain your good character. Remember how horrid it is to receive negative responses that drain all your self-confidence, so don’t go down that road. Stand in good stead with other readers and encourage them to offer their own sides in the argument.

And another barrier is if you are unsure of your own credibility to write well. All I can say to this is, practice. I didn’t start out writing well, so I read lots of blogs and learnt a few techniques, and started writing posts to see how it went, and eventually I picked up a style that seemed to work.

One technique is to imagine talking to your readers, so write like you’re having a conversation with them. It will enable your readers to warm more towards you and your posts. If you find this difficult, try yabbering away into a dictaphone and then transcribe it as a post – this will train you into your conversational style; you can always edit it into good English later. And once you’ve accomplished this ability it will make writing posts that much easier.

If I haven’t covered all the reasons why this stops you from blogging, then why not let me know? If I have enough information I could write another post about it, and acknowledge my sources appropriately (thanks go to Helene Cooper and Ute Wieczorek-King for their ideas). And remember, leaving comments helps bring traffic to your sites too.

How aware are you of the power of the picture?

I’ve just finished my blogging package ‘The Power of Pictures’.

This is just one of my series of blogging packages I’m creating to help women (and men) towards creating their own successful business blog. The first ones of the series are scheduled to be ready towards the end of July, so watch this space!

I like it when I see pictures in a blog. This isn’t only for photographers and those whose business survives on imagery such as arts and crafts, jewellry and silver-ware, stationery and cards or whatever. I know I am guilty in the fact that I don’t put enough pictures into my blog, but it certainly does make a difference, not ony because it is colourful, but because it enables those who thrive on the visual side of comprehension to understand your point of view better.

But there are a few pointers that you need to know before submitting an image to your blog.

First, do you have copyright? So many pictures are ‘stolen’ from the web, both consciously and unconsciously, but it is a crime. This also includes scanning in images from books or whatever, just like photocopying music, which carries a heavy fine. Please be careful about where your pictures come from.

I generally create my own, or otherwise I pay for my pictures from the web from special websites that provide imagery, usually at very reasonable costs. I’m very much aware of copyright, since my mother said she fell foul of this practice in the beginning of her freelancing days, and had to pay the author more for his picture than her commission for her work. It truly isn’t worth it, as it’s very easy to be found out.

OK, so you have your picture, then it needs to be adapted for the web. I use Photoshop because as an ex-graphic designer I have it to hand. It sizes my pictures by centimetres or pixels (whatever you are used to), transforms the image into RGB which is the correct form for the web (as oppose to CYMK for printing), and can create a myriad of file types that are acceptable for uploading.

And once you’ve created your pictures to the exact specifications, it’s very easy to pop into your post – but to find out how you’re going to have to buy my ‘The Power of Pictures’ blogging package that’s available at the end of July!