Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'tips'

Dustin Kirkland

Try These 7 Tips in Your Next Blog Post


In a presentation to my colleagues last week, I shared a few tips I've learned over the past 8 years, maintaining a reasonably active and read blog.  I'm delighted to share these with you now!

1. Keep it short and sweet


Too often, we spend hours or days working on a blog post, trying to create an epic tome.  I have dozens of draft posts I'll never finish, as they're just too ambitious, and I should really break them down into shorter, more manageable articles.

Above, you can see Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, from November 19, 1863.  It's merely 3 paragraphs, 10 sentences, and less than 300 words.  And yet it's one of the most powerful messages ever delivered in American history.  Lincoln wrote it himself on the train to Gettysburg, and delivered it as a speech in less than 2 minutes.

2. Use memorable imagery


Particularly, you need one striking image at the top of your post.  This is what most automatic syndicates or social media platforms will pick up and share, and will make the first impression on phones and tablets.

3. Pen a catchy, pithy title


More people will see or read your title than the post itself.  It's sort of like the chorus to that song you know, but you don't know the rest of the lyrics.  A good title attracts readers and invites re-shares.

4. Publish midweek


This is probably more applicable for professional, rather than hobbyist, topics, but the data I have on my blog (1.7 million unique page views over 8 years), is that the majority of traffic lands on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  While I'm writing this very post on a rainy Saturday morning over a cup of coffee, I've scheduled it to publish at 8:17am (US Central time) on the following Tuesday morning.

5. Share to your social media circles


My posts are generally professional in nature, so I tend to share them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Facebook is really more of a family-only thing for me, but you might choose to share your posts there too.  With the lamentable death of the Google Reader a few years ago, it's more important than ever to share links to posts on your social media platforms.

6. Hope for syndication, but never expect it

So this is the one "tip" that's really out of your control.  If you ever wake up one morning to an overflowing inbox, congratulations -- your post just went "viral".  Unfortunately, this either "happens", or it "doesn't".  In fact, it almost always "doesn't" for most of us.

7. Engage with comments only when it makes sense


If you choose to use a blog platform that allows comments (and I do recommend you do), then be a little careful about when and how to engage in the comments.  You can easily find yourself overwhelmed with vitriol and controversy.  You might get a pat on the back or two.  More likely, though, you'll end up under a bridge getting pounded by a troll.  Rather than waste your time fighting a silly battle with someone who'll never admit defeat, start writing your next post.  I ignore trolls entirely.

A Case Study

As a case study, I'll take as an example the most successful post I've written: Fingerprints are Usernames, Not Passwords, with nearly a million unique page views.

  1. The entire post is short and sweet, weighing in at under 500 words and about 20 sentences
  2. One iconic, remarkable image at the top
  3. A succinct, expressive title
  4. Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2013
  5. 1561 +1's on G+, 168 retweets on Twitter
  6. Shared on Reddit and HackerNews (twice)
  7. 434 comments, some not so nice
Cheers!
Dustin


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Brian de Alwis

I was recently asked to estimate how long I’d been working on a particular project. Unfortunately I hadn’t been keeping track of my time in any organized way.

Fortunately I realized that, since I like to commit frequently (though nothing like Stephen Turnbull’s commit-on-save!), I could come up with an estimate based on my commit dates.

But I quickly realized that bzr log --line puts the author name before the commit date:

  $ bzr log --line -r -3..
  150: Max Bowsher 2011-02-12 [merge] Fix invalid version_info.
  149: Jelmer Vernooij 2010-12-20 [merge] Fixes most of the remaining test fai...
  148: Gary van der Merwe 2010-10-20 [merge] Ignore build folder created by se...
  147: Martin 2010-09-09 [merge] Import xml escaping function through local mo...

The spaces could make extracting the date a bit fragile.

Fortunately I remembered the bzr-xmloutput plugin, which makes processing this kind of information really easy. bzr-xmloutput adds an “–xml” option to many of the standard bzr commands that encodes the output as an XML document. Combined with XMLStarlet, a command-line XML tool that provides XSLT/XPath processing (amongst other things), I was able to cook up a recipe in a matter of minutes:

  $ bzr log --xml \
  | xml sel -t -m '/logs' -m '//log' \
    -v 'substring-before(substring-after(timestamp," ")," ")' -n \
  | sort -u \
  | wc -l

The substring() is required to pull out the date; as bzr-xmloutput prints dates as ‘Day YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS offset’. awk would have worked just as well too.

Too easy, thanks to Guillermo and the other bzr-xmloutput contributors! Now I’m thinking of other questions that can be answered…

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