Fifteen percent of your grade in this course will be determined by your efforts to create and maintain a personal weblog. That percentage might be intimidating, especially for those of you who have never blogged before, but here’s the good news: the guidelines for the blogging assignment are intentionally broad, and I’ve designed them so that everyone in the class can get full credit for their blogging work.
Here, then, is a simple heuristic I will use when evaluating your blog:
- Frequency — On average, you should add new posts to your blog at least twice a week. It’s fine if you blog once during some weeks and three times during others, but by the end of the semester, your blog should have at least
30 posts. (And, depending upon the length of your posts, you might have far more than 30.)
- Length — A blog post is not a formal, academic paper. It should be as long as it needs to be and no longer. Instead of trying to meet a minimum word count with each post, think instead about limiting yourself to a maximum word count—say, 500 words per post. If you prefer to write a lot of short posts, that’s fine, too. As the semester progresses, you’ll find your blogging rhythm and develop a pattern that works for you.
- Relevance — Your posts should be related to what we have been reading and discussing this semester, but that doesn’t mean that each post needs to look like a formal reading response. Rather, your posts might incorporate current events, explore ideas mentioned by another student in class, share funny articles or videos, extend a argument you couldn’t quite articulate in class, or just reflect on some aspect of your academic or digital life.
- Connections — Not always, but sometimes, you should try to respond to something written by someone else—a classmate, another academic blogger, a op-ed columnist, etc… Use hyperlinks to point your readers to the article/post/story/etc. that sparked your response. On the web, hyperlinks are the primary means of “giving credit where credit is due,” so get in the habit of linking whenever it’s appropriate. More broadly, your blog should connect with a public audience that extends beyond the members of our class. This means your posts should be written so they will make sense to someone who isn’t in our class. (Big red flag: any post that starts with “In this week’s reading…”)
- Cohesiveness — Over time, your blog should begin to exhibit some kind of thematic unity. It’s OK to be interested in a lot of different things, but the best blogs typically focus on a small handful of related topics, so start thinking about what really interests you and write about that as often as possible.
Whether you’re new to blogging or have been keeping a blog for years, I encourage you to read through a few helpful articles about blogging:
- “What Makes for a Good Blog?“, by Merlin Mann
- “10 Steps to Better Blogging,” by Dan Frommer
- “Advice for Potential Academic Bloggers,” by Simon Wren-Lewis
- “How do I write a blog that’s professional and personal?” (Ask MetaFilter discussion)
If you need help using WordPress, here are a few good starting points:
- Learn WordPress.com (This is written specifically for WordPress.com, but most of it applies to any WordPress site.)
- New to WordPress — Where to Start (WordPress.org’s step-by-step guide to getting your site up and running.)
- Lynda.com video tutorials (Login with your VT PID and password, then search for “WordPress.” I recommend the “WordPress Essential Training” series.)
- WordPress.org Codex (This is a massive, official repository of WordPress documentation.)
- WordPress.org Support Forums (Whatever problem you’re having, chances are someone else has dealt with it before and posted a solution in the forums.)