TypePad and Mentoring New Bloggers

November 3, 2003

in Blogging

Are you helping to get colleagues and friends blogging? This morning I came across two pieces by Diego Duval Introduction to Weblogs” and “Part Two: Syndication“. It is nice when someone writes down and captuers a sense of “what a blogger knows”. Add to this some recent posts by Lilia on RSS and this one “Deep Thinking by Andrew Grument and the facts are taken care of. However too few posts lay out the stories that emerge from blogging. Maybe it is harder, perhaps it is their anecdotal nature. See also Stories about Blogging

Before these links I’d already been reflecting on the “hurdle” and “hurdle rate” for new bloggers. For in the last week I introduced a few more to blogging. I’m very much in favor of putting a tool in their hands and then working with them as they ask questions. Maybe this is the Serious Play approach to blogging. This way it moves at their pace and with their interests and needs. It’s learning by doing and that makes it real and achievable. I failed to do this on one occassion last week (chasing something bigger with too many assumptions of their knowledge and what they might create) and regretted it afterwards. There’s a threshold that must be created to get to the more complex stuff.

There’s is also “trust” which is involved in following your choice for the decision right “platform” choices for them. Getting started with the right tool is important. After a short show and tell, I then spent 3-4 hours getting my latest recruit to start with TypePad.

Now this was the first time I’d used TypePad (I’d registered early that morning) setting up previous “independent” personal bloggers on Radio. Radio in the past has always been my choice for its editing and aggregator capabilities however it lacks mulit-user capability, public private blogging options etc. Ultimately it’s not a very effective tool for providing some “parallel” mentoring. I’ve also watched the abandonement of Radio (something I did after two weeks) by many users. It simply has lacked investment. By contrast the MT community out of which TypePad has evolved is vibrant.

So what were my latest learning and reflections?:

Simplicity: New bloggers need simple instructions. We underestimate the hurdle that a new blogging aspirant goes through. From… looking at other posts (writing hurdle) to going public while remaining private. There’s a lot happening on day one. Some stories could be inserted into TypePad about new bloggers at Day one… Day 10 etc. Show how their posts and layout evolve over some months. It can’t be all learned in a day. Encourage them to start with a “test blog” make posts, copy n paste, check links etc… and then delete the blog when finished. Help them label it a trial space. It helps to create the experimental context.

Complexity: Typepad comes close to being too complex for a first time user. When we want to get posting.. we are confronted with design, photoblogs and typelists. As an MT user I find it generally elegant. Committed users will slowly learn all the functionality. In the meantime I’m going to remain available for my new blogging buddy. I’ll also get him to set up a new private blog for questions. Typepad also provides some nice profiling features.

Functionality: Some great posting flexibility. Still it took me a while to find the QuickPost Bookmarket (it was staring me in the face!). I had a harder time trying to figure out the wBloggar posting instructions. I asked the help desk and that solved that. Finally I enjoyed experimenting with the mobile e-mail posting capability. However naming it “mobile settings” ignores how useful it is for forwarding or saving an e-mail from someone. I do wish I had this functionality in MT.

News News News: Integration with a newsaggregator. Blogging without an aggregator no longer makes sense to me. The new blogger is focused on his webpage. It is hard to explain to a new blogger that the majority of your future hits are likely to come to your RSS feed. TypePad doesn’t have an integrated newsreader and makes no recommendations. I remain surprised that they don’t integrate a simple single pane newsreader. It would make the job of getting someone new started that much easier. Instead I hooked him up to SharpReader with a blogthis and wBloggar link. Probably too much for one afternoon.

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