Thanet Star

Joined Up Blogging

One of the things that we Thanet locals seem to enjoy accusing the council of is lack of joined up thinking. This is because different departments become isolated from one another and the threads of ideas that started as good ideas at some point become disjointed and bazaar at times. The same can happen in blogging.

Some readers might be aware that from the start I have tried to use Thanet Star not only to look at Thanet but to share with my fellow Thanet bloggers some of the technical experience I have picked up. I have no doubt that there is a world of difference between what any two people see as important in a blog. Nevertheless I will continue to attempt to address some common themes - in this case joined up blogging.

Blogging works on the whole not because of individual blogs (although these are important) but because of the connectivity between them. This connectivity allows readers to jump from one blog to another and follow the thread of conversation. Search engines mimic this and so treat links much like votes - where a page links to another there must be (it is reasoned) some connection in theme or topic between the pages.

By being sure that our blogging is internally and externally joined up we not only make our blog (or any other website) a better and more satisfying experience for readers but we also grant the topics we discuss more weight and impact. In this post I am going to look at this topic and the effect it has on a niche (such as ours).

Why does joined up blogging mater?

In blogging it is possible to roughly divided the "joined up" nature of blogs into three levels - mild medium and full. Before we look at how we can identify at what level a blog is running I would like to stop and examine why this might be important. The essential question of "does it even matter?"

In short I believe that it does mater ad it maters a great deal. A joined up blog becomes in the minds of many readers an effective centre and authority on it's subject. This is because a reader can quickly identify the gestalt (or combined whole) of a subject and move on to other blogs via these connections. Such a valuable resource quickly becomes the centre of attention.

Take Yahoo as an example. They quickly became the place to go to find websites on any topic because they provided a listing that met covered every subject in depth. The came Google and stole that crown by providing everything on the web but faster and more efficiently.

The same happens in sub topics such as Thanet Blogging. It is no mistake that when asked to compile a short list of Thanet blogging that some names come up more often than others - Tony Flaig, ECR, Michael Child and Bertie Biggles spring instantly to mind. In the current ecosystem of Thanet blogging these are the authors around which many of the rest of us orbit.

3 Levels of joined up blogging

Mildly joined up blogging

The most basic way that one blog can connect to others is through the use of side bar links. It provides a way of saying "I recognise these as sites related to my topic". The value of these is significantly reduced when this is provided via javascript rather than via HTML as the message is hidden from search engines.

To be honest this is hardly joined up at all and probably a level that even TDC could manage. With the use of "more joined up methods" this can even become redundant.

Medium joined up blogging

Every post we make is tethered to our blog by the slimmest of threads, often just the archives. When we go to talk about these pages any of us forget to link to them. This is fine if the reader has read everything you have ever written but if they have not they are unlikely to have the foggiest notion what we are talking about.

A simple hyperlink solves this. Better yet it actually makes the blog easier to use both for humans and search engine bots alike. The result is that important pages can be identified quickly and the impact is increased significantly.

This alone will not bring in a "medium" level of joined up blogging. Yes you blog will internally be a bit better joined up but the power of blogs comes from the links between blogs.

I am as guilty as any other of forgetting to link to specific pages I might be talking about. While it might be interesting to mention that ECR or David green have said something fascinating it is far more useful to the reader to provide a link not to the front door (the main page of the blog) but to the very article itself.

Now the reader at my site can read what I have to say and optional see exactly what the other bloggers said too. If that blogger was talking about a fourth then the reader can look at this too.

When viewed from a digital perspective a web emerges (that's why it is called the world wide web) an within that web small and large knots of highly interconnected pages can be identified. These knots of pages indicate a topic of importance and can be aggregated by sites such a technorati, Google and others to create a summary of opinion on the subject.

It is this summary process that has toppled governments and big businesses as well as exposing frauds and other significant items the "big press" have chosen not to address.

All it takes is that we all link a bit more. I plan to make a renewed effort to do as often as possible.

Fully joined up blogging

We can take things to the next level and create a full conversation but it requires a tiny bit of technical skill (when I say tiny I do me very very small).

The barrier to the fullest join up blogging in Thanet that is possible is two fold - habit and set up.

First a little on habit - if you blog but comment as "anon" you are robbing people of a chance to follow the conversation by cloaking the interconnectedness of the thing. While this is your personal choice I highly recommend a little more joined up blogging when it comes to comments. It's why I use OpenID which was a pain in the butt to set up.

When we comment on each other's blog we get to choose to leave a link. We can be Anon or Name from Link. In blogger that link is often to a profile page when really a link to your blog would be better. The comment is the last remaining factor in the joined up conversation of blogging and it happens on your own blog so you control it.

On the whole comments are nofollow. This "nofollow" is a standard introduced by search engines that says "this link is unrelated and of no value". Most blog platforms use nofollow and profile page links to degrade the attributed value of the comment link.

This is quite unfair s the link is the only reward the commenter has for the act of contributing to your site's content. comments help to write the page and yet we be default often treat them as of no value.

Fortunately help is at hand in the shape of something that has come to be known as the "do follow" movement who have worked hard to make available ways to strip the nofollow back out and keep the link love flowing.

Blogger - Ronnie T. Dodger explains how you can make your blogger a do follow blog.

Wordpress - for wordpress users there is a do follow plugin

NucleusCMS - this platform is dofollow on URLs given on the form by default and nofollow on links int he comment body. You need do nothing as it is still dofollow by default (this is what I use).

Other Andy Beard (a niche marketing expert) has compiled a long list of dofollow solutions on his blog Ultimate List of DoFollow & Nofollow Plugins - Banish Nofollow From Comments and Trackbacks.

Final thoughts

It is possible to blog without being joined up but I feel it is far better to join up our thoughts and create a coherent conversation rather than tens of soap boxes with disconnected shouting (something we can all become sometimes). It is better for the same reason that comments on the same topic as the post are better. For those interested in the content of the post the story need not stop at the heading that says "this post was written by..."

Some of us a instinctively join up our blogging and other of us do not. It is a choice we each have to make as to how we will handle things. Yet I truly believe that our impact as bloggers in Thanet will be significantly increased by even the smallest increase in joined up blogging.

Now we come to that stage of a blog post where you get to take over. What is your take on joined up blogging?

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Ronnie T. Dodger [score: 0]:

Welcome to the club Matt! And thanks for the plug.
16/09/2008 13:45:42

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

You are welcome.
16/09/2008 19:51:27

This Normal comment was left by Reliable Hosting Service [score: 0]:

Great Article, Specially the last section "Fully joined up blogging"
Nofollow in effect stifles the incentive to comment and socialise. I noticed you have a 'u comment, I follow' banner. I think that it is great to advertise the fact that you have this enabled to encourage dicsussion. Would appreciate where to get this.
23/02/2009 21:22:15

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

What banner?
24/02/2009 14:31:13

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Are we all just posting generic sounding comments for the link? I hope these are genuine but I have my doubts. All future comments here must not be generic. Thanks guys.
15/03/2009 12:05:24

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

Right that's it - this post is closed. I'm not here for you to post free adverts.
20/04/2009 20:27:48
This item is closed, it's not possible to add new comments to it or to vote on it

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