what makes a blog good?

pencilkeyboardWhat do you think are the characteristics of a good blog?

My goal for today is to put together a handout for my Travel Literature students, who will be blogging next semester as one of their major projects. Before they begin, I’d like to give them a list of criteria for a good blog, focused on the criteria on which I’ll be evaluating them.

I found this wonderful list over at “43 folders”, and I’ll be handing this to them as an additional reference, but I’d like to give them my own list with more simple and concrete guidelines. Here’s what I’m starting with:

  • A good blog is personal. It’s about things that interest you. It doesn’t have to be about the intimate details of your life (although it can be), but it discusses things that have caught your attention and that you want to give more thought to.
  • A good blog is regular. I’ll require you to write in your blog once a week, but popular blogs with loyal readerships are usually updated at least a few times a week. You’re welcome to post to your blog as often as you want, and you may find that writing regularly about class topics helps you retain and understand them better.
  • A good blog is focused. Some interesting blogs may seem to be random, but they usually have some sort of topic: “my family” or “stuff I do for fun” or “this is the place where I practice writing” or even just “my day-to-day life.” The topic of your blog will be this course, Travel Literature, and that can include a lot of things: thoughts about the readings we’ve done or the ideas we’ve discussed, thoughts about travel in general, thoughts about travel blogs or other travel texts, etc. If I can’t find a link between one of your blog posts and the course topics, that’s a problem!
  • A good blog is well and clearly written. You may be writing online, but that’s no reason to be sloppy. LOLspeak and emoticons are fine on MSN or in emails to friends, but your blog is a place where you need to establish your credibility and skill, so that people can understand your ideas easily and will want to read more. You don’t need to use a formal academic tone – it’s fine to be relaxed and conversational; in fact, it’s often preferable – but you need to spell correctly and use clear, well-structured, grammatically correct sentences.
  • What would you add to this list? I want to keep it fairly simple, but also thorough, and in my experience, I always mess up criteria the first time around and leave out something important. If you can help me out, I’ll have a better chance of starting the students out on the right foot.

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    7 responses

    1. Great ideas. I would also add that a good blog:

      -gives credit to others by linking
      -adds something to the conversation(it is not an echo chamber)
      -encourages dialogue and author responds to comments

    2. This may be a personal preference but I find a good blog is one that is easy to read, and sometimes makes me think further about the topic. Sometimes a good blog actually inspires me to write my own post about the topic.

      • I agree with these, Pat; the trick is putting these concepts (“easy to read”; “makes me think further”) into concrete terms that students can apply. I think it might be easier to demonstrate these ideas with examples from student blogs once they get rolling. But maybe you have some suggestions as to what I can tell students to do in order to make their posts easy to read and thought-provoking?

    3. A good blog, to make it pleasing and easy to read, follows the conventions of good Web writing: headings, bullets, frequent paragraph breaks. It also uses visuals to support stories as appropriate.

      • Renae:
        The “conventions of Web writing” is an important point; we spend a lot of time emphasizing the “conventions of academic writing”, but Web writing is clearly a totally different animal, and one students need training in.

    4. Good blogs are honest…unless they are short story blogs. People seem to like the everyday life kind of blog. Mine has evolved into that. BLogging is just lots of fun, a way to share, a source of support, and a way to learn.

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