My principles of blogging

Taking part in the 31-days-to-a-better-blog challenge has got me reflecting on why I'm blogging and how I should approach writing a blog post. So, as an aid to that exploration, I've tried to set out 6 principles for this blog – which are listed below.

What do you think of these principles? Do you have any written, or unwritten, rules or principles that you use to guide your blogging?

Principles for Tim's Blog (Draft version – August 2007)

1) A space for focused sharing
One of my key motivations for starting this blog was to provide a space to share reflections, resources and content that I come across or create in the course of my work. The aim is not, however, for it to be a brain dump, or a virtual equivalent of that pile of papers and articles on my desk that I thought someone-or-other would be really interested in. The aim is for shared content that supports thinking and action in relation to social justice and young people's empowerment.

I'll be seeking to make sure that, where I have relevant information, resources or reflections that could be useful to the audience of this blog, I take the time to post these in an accessible and useful way.

2) Not too much on technology
It's very easy in the blogging world to write about technology and social media in particular (I suppose many writers write about writing a lot, so it seems relatively natural). However, this isn't a space for me to reflect on the latest and greatest new technologies I've just come across unless those technologies link to the youth participation and social change elements of this blog.

3) Seeking solutions not problems
I approach the world with a very 'problem-solving' approach. I'm always looking for constructive solutions. However, the key to problem-solving is understanding the problem. That can mean that quite a bit of a blog post is taken up explaining problems – things that are wrong and need fixing.

I'll be seeking to ensure that the emphasis in these posts in on exploring solutions and positive change – and I'll working to escape the temptation to spend all my words ranting about problems.

4) Recommending and reflecting
At times, I recognize that solutions are not easily in reach, and what is needed is not a recommended recipe for resolution, but open reflection on possible ways to respond to a problem or challenge (whether with action or not).

I'll be seeking to have a balance of reflective posts that leave threads and ideas hanging, awaiting more thought – and other posts that seek to weave threads of thought together into something more of a solid thought process that leads to take-away-product of some form.

5) Engaging in conversation
This blog is not one-way publishing. I don't want to just stick content online and leave it there. So I'll be seeking to make sure I use this as a space both for hosting conversation, and for responding to conversations elsewhere in the blogosphere and beyond.

6) A personal blog
This is a personal blog. I have a relatively introverted personality. However, as these posts are shaped by my thinking and interests, I need to be transparent about these and to avoid the comfort of anonymous abstract writing in favor of an honest and open style.

I'll be seeking to strike a balance between relating everything to some personal story, and being clear that as the writer, I am part of the posts I write and shouldn't edit myself out of them.

What participation workers could learn from the mini-legends…

I want to start this post by welcoming the newest participants in the 31 days to a better blog challenge. All 29 of them.

Screenshot of

The miniLegends co-ordinated by Al Upton are all members of a year 3 class in Adelaide, South Australia, using individual blogs as part of their learning environment. Al is also exploring how blogs can be used in connecting classrooms locally and globally through the Connect Edu Blog.

Al has seen how blogs can provide a really empowering platform for individual and connected learning.

Effective youth participation work involves taking learning, building on empowerment, and looking to create positive change. Creating change involves having a voice. And thats what blogging is about.

Yet, we're still short on blogs in the youth participation world.

Looks like we've got the edubloggers to catch up with…

31 days – The challenge continues

The 31-days-to-a-better-blog challenge is carrying on at a high pace.

Today's challenge from ProBlogger Darren Rowse is all about advertising, and as this blog is about sharing rather than making money, that does give me a bit of time to catch up. However, the challenge has got more serious! Sue and Frances are offering chocolate to both the best improved blog over 31 days, and to the best comment posted by a reader of one of the blogs participating in the challenge.


I've joined the challenge, so that, dear reader, means that if you post a great, insightful and fantastic comment on this blog, I might just nominate you to be in the running to win… (Hmm, is this blog bribery?)

Sharing learning
I've been learning an awful lot over today from visiting many of the other bloggers taking part in the 31-day-challenge. There's an awful lot going on at the blogs of Alex MillerBrent MacKinnonCammy BeanChristine MartellFrances McLeanKate FoyKate QuinnLaura WhiteheadNancy RifferSmokeFree WisconsinSue Waters and The Indian Blogger

Hopefully you will already identify I'm picking up on lessons from Michele Martin about making use of visuals – and I'm going to try and explore some nifty visualisation tools later this week as well.

The tasks

Day 7: Plan your Next Week's Posting Schedule

As with many of the other bloggers taking part in the 31-day-challenge, I see blogging as driven by content, not content driven by blogging. However, I do often leave unfinished posts languishing for far too long in BlogDesk before they make it onto the site, usually aided by delayed train journeys that give me the time to get them sorted out.

Snippet from The Bamboo Project BlogOne I've been particularly struggling with is a 1/2 finished post on visualisations. Particularly on ways of taking RSS feeds and managing the information in more visual ways (perhaps in mind-mapped ways like the bubble-blog idea suggested by Micheles 'test-reader' on Day 2). So – I'm resolving now to take a good look at that again tomorrow and see if I can get it online.

I've also got some writings on Youth Development and the recent 10 Year Youth Strategy in the pipeline, so I'm targetting next week to get those out. Whether or not those posts really make it does, alas, depend on whether or not the train gets delayed when I head to visit my wife fascilitating at peace school later this week

Day 8: Comment on a blog you've never commented on before

The challenge has been great for encouraging me to be more willing to comment, so I've been dropping in input, questions and comments where I can across todays blog reading. Making the time to engage in conversations online does seem to move towards greater abundancy thinking and I'm really enjoying the opportunities it is presenting. I'm a little worried that my current level of participation is only enabled by the flexibility of the projects I'm working on at the moment… and that it will be trickier to keep engaged when work pressure bite.

That tells me though that I need to think about the value there is in engaging in online conversations across the blogosphere… and if there is real value there (as I'm feeling there most certainly is), I need to explore how I can restructure my work plans to make the most of it.

A question

This 31 day challenge is intensive. And the recent knowledge jam on collaborative technology I took part in was also an intensive 48 hour online interaction.

Thanks to:'m interested in whether the 31-day-challenge approach could be adopted for organisational learning and change programmes (I'm going to be supporting a number of organisations on learning journeys to engage with social media this autumn) – but I'm worried that this current challenge eats up too much time to fit easily into the work day of busy teams.

Is the intensity of the challenge a key to it working? Or could you turn the 31-day-challenge into a 3-month challenge and still have the same effect?

I get the feeling the intensity is an important part of this challenge working so well to bring people together – but I'd be really interested to hear what others think….

31 days to a better blog

I feel I should subtitle this post 'Picking mange-tout by moonlight' as I was about to go out and do the watering at 7 O'Clock this evening when I decided to sit down and look at Michele Martin's challenge to her reader to join in a 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Challenge. Four hours and a lot of learning about this blog later, I finally made it out onto the balcony, where I also learned that harvesting the day's crop of salad and beans by night is none-too-easy.

Anyway – onto the challenge. Every day over August, Darren Rowse is posting a suggestion for building a better blog. Michele has challenged reader of the Bamboo Project Blog to join her in taking on the suggestions and documenting their learning. I'm rather late in coming to the challenge, and I'll probably be address it in fits-and-starts rather than as a daily regimine (August is turning into one of those months…) – but I'm hoping to work through as many of the tasks as I can to build this into a better blog by the end of the summer.

So far I've started with Day 4 and 5, interlinking archived posts and conducting an 'about page' audit. In the process, I've discovered that quite a few areas of this blog were a bit broken. Commenting hasn't been working as it should (I spotted some problems last week, but the fix seemed to have started torrential spam, so I've added in a CAPTCHA to blog comment spam…), and quite a few stray menus were roaming around the place. The design also needed quite a lot of work to get things looking properly personalised and more blog-like.

I've realised rarely look at my blog as a reader would. I'm either logged in as an administrator user in the Drupal installation that runs it, so I have permission to do anything and see everything – even if things are hidden for straight blog visitors or I'm writing content on the train offline with BlogDesk and posting it direct without ever visiting the site. I also rarely look at other blogs directly – always reading content through Google Reader. So, I've resolved that I need to be checking the front page of this blog a bit more (hopefully as comments start working, I'll have more reason to in order to keep track of them), and I've subscribed to the RSS feeds from the blog in all possible different ways to check that they are actually working and displaying as they should…

I've rewritten the about page (with many thanks to Michele for a good template to learn from), and have updated the menu's to link to it more directly. And, after much searching through photo archives and settling on some shots from our recent trip to Iona, I've spruced the whole place up to be a bit more graphical. Feedback is most welcome.

For interlinking archived posts, I've take advantage of the very handy Similar Entries module for Drupal which uses text-search to try and match three similar posts on every archived item on the blog. I'll review how well its doing in a couple of days – but so far it seems to be making good suggestions. I've not got all that much archived content yet – but I'll be keeping an eye on old posts that could do with manual links to newer ones.

So – tomorrow I'm going to tackle the trickier stuff – finding out what a new reader really thinks of 'Tim's Blog'…

The joy of trains (and offline rss readers)

I've made it. I've whittled the cloud of 600 blog posts and links that have been hanging over me for a fortnight down to just 17 that I need to follow up when I finally make it back home. Things started getting bad when the deadlines for launching the new Participation Works gateway co-incided with preparation for The Youth Summit, the tail end of Actions Speak Louder and running the final 3D dialogue – bizzarly being held on the set of Hollyoaks.

The trouble with bloggers is they keep on posting fantastic nuggets of wisdom and ideas even when I've not got the time to read them. And the really interesting people I'm reading, keep on pointing out other really interesting people who I could learn a lot from as well – and soon my news-reader is bursting at the seams with condensed learning, inspriation and peripheral knowledge.

The upside, however, of an accumulation of a never-ending-flow of blog posts is that is makes delays on the train a positively helpful and positive experience. I'm writing right now from Peterborough Station. Peterborough is definitely not on the route from London to Leicester… apart from when all the trains from London to Leicester are cancelled, and you have to meander home the long way. And such a meander provides just the time I need for catching up on my personal learning and blog reading.