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published by Ben Allen
At the start of 2010 I setup this blog to start a discussion on topics I have a passion for and to learn more about blogging, writing and the web in general. I feel it's appropriate to look back on 2010 and ask "what have I learnt?".
It's a long post so feel free to jump to the bits you're interested in:
Since I decided to host my own blog, by necessity, I've had to learn about the WordPress ecosystem. When setting up the blog I wasn't really aware of the alternatives to WordPress. The blogging platform was so widely used & discussed by friends and colleagues that I didn't stop to think about my options.
I knew there was hype about WordPress but I also knew that WordPress was more than just software. The community surrounding WordPress, in my opinion, was and still is the biggest asset to the entire platform. Why?
There is barely a learning curve to WordPress if all you want to do is setup a basic blog. I though wanted to get "good" at WordPress and I knew that would require work. I've viewed that work more as an opportunity to learn something exciting, something that could help friends or perhaps even earn money.
In just 1 year I'd describe my WordPress knowledge as "intermediate". I've been able to help friends on their WordPress projects and, in my day job, I'm in the process of launching my first WordPress site (which will be using the very cool Carrington Build). There is no way I would have had the confidence to pitch for that work if it had not been for this blog.
A couple of resources have really helped me learn:
The process of creating good content is hard. The process of creating good, original content is even harder. Like most bloggers I started out thinking I wanted to write like somebody else. In my case I enjoyed the long form, thought provoking & highly actionable style of Avinash Kaushik. I quickly realised that producing that style of content was a massive effort. An effort which would require a substantial amount of time. I could only give up this much time every 2 weeks, hence my posting frequency. I aim for a post every 2 weeks but as you can tell from my "monthly posts sidebar" my consistency has been poor.
My writing process goes something like this:
When it comes to my writing style I still think there is plenty of room for improvement. I truly wish I had been taught more English grammar at school (or perhaps I should have paid more attention). I've been reading The Elements of Style (slowly) and I hope this improves things.
My writing process needs loads of work too. I think some areas for improvement are:
It may look like I'm hard on myself but the thing to remember here is that 1 year ago I didn't have a writing process. I didn't know about or use half the tools I've just mentioned. I didn't have aspirations for becoming a better writer. I had no reason to go outside of my comfort zone for the sake of research. Blogging has opened my eyes to a hugely creative experience. While it takes effort the reward is exceptional. Writing challenges my own views and forces me to make my argument clearer.
There is nothing better than reading an old post that I've written and then thinking "wow - did I write that? Its pretty good!".
I've not been able to foster much discussion on this blog. 13 posts & 17 comments are not great numbers! I really like hearing an alternative point of view and reviewing reader feedback so it's a shame there is not more comments. That said, I'm not surprised. Here are some things I think I need to do better in order to generate more discussion:
If you have more ideas, please share in the comments below!
I'm super interested in analytics. I love reading about the topic and I often advise on analytics within my job. For this blog however my approach to analytics has been pretty poor. My excuse? Time. I just don't have time to review the numbers and work out the actionable insights. In this area then, I think I've improved the least.
It is comforting to know that when I do get time to play with analytics I have a case study I can mess with. I hope the day comes where I can have a really good play with analytics and regularly derive insights because I find the topic fascinating and I have plenty to learn.
I've come across several problems while authoring this blog and these problems are often solved with great software. I define great software as software with the following attributes:
Its great when you find a tool which does exactly what you want it to do. Here are the tools I've been using for this blog and a few more tools which I have installed and will be utilised on the blog in the future.
Using all these apps for the purpose of the blog has been a great learning experience. I've become a more competent Mac user and I've developed my skills beyond the corporate mix i.e., expensive Adobe products like Photoshop and Dreamweaver.
A year's worth of blogging has been a tremendous learning experience. I've developed my existing skills and created interests I never knew I had. Simply learning WordPress has given me another sellable skill.
I'm better at my job because of this blog and I feel I have more credibility as a web professional. It's a bit like the saying "never trust a skinny chef". Can you really trust someone offering advice on your digital strategy if they don't have a good site themselves?