Finally, after weeks of nagging poor Pete Ashton like a fishwife for FTP access to the Digbeth is Good blog, he’s on it. So whilst I wait for every ISP in the world to change, and relish the prospect of total control (mwah-ha-ha) I’m going to use poor, neglected Getgood Guide to do the downright inevitable and blog about bloody blogging. It happens to the best of us.
Antonio Gould’s been telling me for a while I should write a post about things I’ve needed during my induction to bloggery. I’ve kind of listened to him. And decided to do my own thing, which is write a post about things I wish I knew before I started. Here we are then.
I’d need to know a spot of HTML
A couple of years ago, I did an Open University Web Design course, which consisted of learning the basic principles of web design and using these to build a site out of HTML about a saucepan company, of all things. I hated the programming more than I did those stupid pots and pans and after passing, threw away all the books and notes, vowing never to touch HTML ever again.
I didn’t realise my mistake until quite recently. There’s no getting over it, WISYWIG can only get a girl so far. I’ll really need to re-learn a little of that horrid HTML if I want my posts to look not too squashed, not too spaced but juuust right. Arses.
There’s a whole, head-spinning world of WordPress Plugins, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, RSS Readers, Delicious, Analytics, Feedburner etc. And all this before I’ve even considered podcasting or Flip-ing filming. To be honest, a lot of this stuff isn’t that hard to learn and it just needs a good explanation to get the hang of it. I think what would have been useful is a step-by-step guide of the stuff that new bloggers need to know. Like an online course or post explaining things like image copying, film embedding, linking and the like. The simple tools one needs to get started.
Luckily this type of support is starting to emerge with blogging workshops, the surgeries started by Pete Ashton being duplicated elsewhere, and Ultra Local blogging expert William Perrin’s genius ideas for a UK-wide blogger-starter resource, which I don’t doubt will become a reality.
Where’s my life gone?
I never leave Digbeth anymore. I live and work here but before Digbeth is Good I had been known to occasionally socialise elsewhere. Now, when I’m not going to local launches and events, I’m blogging about them. Venturing to the Jewelery Quarter to see Stan’s Café’s The Rice Show felt like a new mother’s first night out.
When Pete gave me Digbeth is Good, he gave me a rough brief of covering all the arty cultural happenings within the place. There’s a hell of a lot of that going on. And I can’t not mention the regeneration activity or the music and pub culture if I’m going to give the place the overview it deserves. I think I’m spending roughly two days a week on this, on top of my full-time job. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. It’s just that occasionally I’d like to have the time to do other stuff, like clean my flat or talk to my family. People have advised me to take step back but that’s easier said than done when you want your baby to be perfect.
It also means I don’t have the time I’d like to look at it strategically and think about how it should develop. On October 13th Hyperlocalblogger expert Matt McGee wrote a post about What Makes a Great Local Blogger, which I duly bookmarked. 10 days later and I still haven’t managed to read it.
I discussed this problem with William Perrin yesterday when I had the pleasure of meeting with him at the Hello Digital conference. His solution was to relinquish some of that total control I’d been celebrating – get others with something to say writing on the site. I can see how this would widen the scope of the blog and be a nice way to engage and give a voice to people. But I must admit to instinctively hating the idea of letting anyone else help look after the precious baby I’ve nurtured. I’ll have to think very long and hard on this one, about whether or not I could stand it.
Brum Bloggers: you can be a little scary sometimes
I was nervous about writing this for precisely this reason, but I felt the fact that I felt this way was important, so sod it.
When I first started blogging my friend Will Buckingham, who was Birmingham Words before moving to Leeds, wrinkled his nose and asked if I’d become part of the Birmingham Blogging Mafia. I said I didn’t realise there was one. “Oh yeah,” said his girlfriend Elee, “and they meet up and everything.” (I love the meet-ups – it’s great to get to know people you’ve met virtually.)
Then the Surface Unsigned debacle happened. Surface Unsigned sent Created in Birmingham a scary legal letter. Pete Ashton put out an online call to arms and the answer he received, from myself included, was deafening.
After that came the ArtsFest Twitter debate. ArtsFest were experimenting with social media with their new blog and a volunteer started an ArtsFest Twitter account in a way Birmingham Bloggers felt was wrong. They duly commented on Twitter and wrote blog posts debating the issue.
I’m not disagreeing with the verdict, but the way it was done made me feel slightly uncomfortable. It left me, rightly or wrongly, with the impression I that if I made a similar boo-boo it would be discussed and dissected very publicly. I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong, the only way we’ll learn is to share but as a newcomer it’s bloody daunting. It made me kind of terrified of making a mistake.
But of course I did, because learners inevitably do. Luckilly a friend noticed it first and rang me to explain the error of my ways, because that’s how friends tend correct each other – they take you aside and have a quiet word in your ear rather than exposing you. Of course we need to share and learn from each other, but sometimes the way it’s done can make this Brave New World feel a little unfriendly.
But no friend knew or thought to tell me all of these things before I started on Digbeth is Good, which is probably just well because if they had I wouldn’t have touched it with a barge pole. I know I’ve used the blog-as-child analogy a little too much here but it’s totally true – it’s taken over and completely changed my life, but I wouldn’t be without it for the world.