We are publishing the guidelines under the CC-BY license so that others can benefit from them. I also hope that I'll get feedback. Please give the post a read and leave your comments below. I'll use your input to improve the guidelines.
Draft Talkoot blogging guidelines
We hope that our blogging will lead to people discussing and participating in the Talkoot project.
The first challenge is getting the attention of the Magnolia community - a group of busy people from different backgrounds. To get people's attention, I think that we need to:
- regularly publish
- short, well-structured blog posts
- in plain english that
- are valuable to readers and that
- focus on a single topic that is
- part of a larger story.
I also want our blog posts to motivate people to participate in Talkoot. There are many ways we can do this. In blog posts, a simple way is to:
Finally, we should not try to make our blog posts (or these guidelines) perfect. Perfect is the enemy of good and of done.
More on each of these points below.
Make regular blog posts
I think that people want to get interesting information:
- regularly (but not too often)
- at predictable times
- that are convenient for them.
We can be more regular by having posts ready before we need them. If anything interrupts us, we can use what we've already written.
If we have posts ready to publish, it is easy to be predictable: we just pick times to publish and stick to them.
Posting at convenient times is a challenge. We are writing for people in many time zones. No matter when we post, it'll be the middle of someone's night and they'll be late to the discussion. As a compromise, let's try posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays near the start of my day (15:00 UTC). We won't compete with anyone's Monday, and I can engage with people who comment on the post over the rest of my day. After that, the Magnolians in Europe can pick up where I left off.
Write short, well-structured posts in plain English
We are writing for busy people with different levels of fluency in English.
Fluent readers often skim text, looking for interesting parts.
Less fluent readers may read word-by-word, needing more time to find what matters to them.
Readers who use machine translation are best served by text that uses simple words, simple grammar and simple structure.
Busy people have less attention and need less content that is better structured.
I've listed some important guidelines below:
- Important things first. Put the most important points at the beginning of the post, so that readers can quickly decide if the entire thing is worth reading.
- Keep posts around a 1000 words or less. A careful read of 1000 words should take most readers less than 10 minutes, and fluent readers can skim this amount of text in a minute or so.
- Use short sentences. Usually, short sentences are easier to understand than long sentences.
- One point per paragraph. Keep paragraphs short and limited to a single key point.
- Use common words. Most readers should not need to use dictionary to read our blog posts.
Make posts valuable to readers
Right now, we are writing for Magnolia community members who might participate in Talkoot.
Guessing at what they need, I think that we should have one post a week on something concrete (like a task that can be done) and one post a week on something abstract (like this post).
As people participate, we should find out what they need and adjust our style and focus to fit.
One major topic per blog post
We can make blog posts simpler by focusing on one major topic. This simplicity should lead to easier editing, simpler discussions around the blog post and so on.
Focusing on a single topic will also make blog posts easier to search for and update.
Remember the bigger story
Having short and simple posts means that we need to tell our story in parts.
Right now, there are a few big stories (or threads) that we want to focus on.
One thread is about the hows and whys of the Talkoot project. Posts should cover topics like:
- Why we're running the Talkoot project
- Why participate in Talkoot
- How to get the most your participation
Another thread should focus on what is happening in the project. Posts should cover topics like:
- How the project is progressing
- What the roadmap looks like
- What work needs to be done now
Ask for reader participation
If we want reader participation, we should ask for it.
Asking at the end is natural - if someone has read the entire post, they're likely interested and have something to offer.
Asking at the beginning lets readers know what we'd like from them.
Make it easy for readers to participate
We can make it easier for readers to participate if we ask for simple things that are well-described and easy to do. We also should make sure that we only ask for what we really need, instead of asking for others to do our work for us.
Make it beneficial for readers to participate
This topic needs a separate blog post to discuss how and why we want to make participation good for everyone involved.
We should say what we think the benefits of participating are. We should also ask readers how participating could benefit them.
Perfect is the enemy of good and done
Our blog posts should be good, but not perfect. The most important thing is to stimulate conversation and enable participation. If what we write leads to good discussion and good collaboration, we're doing the right thing.
Thanks for reading!
If you can, help me in the following ways:
- Please comment on this post. Your input will help improve these guidelines, which will lead to better posts in the future. I'm most interested in your personal experiences, either as a reader or a writer. Also, I have a much easier time writing when I get feedback on my writing.
- Follow Talkoot on Twitter so that you can more easily keep up-to-date with what the Talkoot team is working on.
Next week, I'll be writing about how we are designing the Talkoot project for collaboration.