Imitation: the sincerest form of bloggery

Back to 31 Days to a Better Blog Challenge – Day 4 and we’re looking to observe a blog in our niche area and to do a compare and contrast with our own. The parameters of this task are wide and the participants can focus on as many aspects of blogging as we care to: design, SEO details, commentary and so on.

Part of the reason I’ve signed up again for this challenge is to review my own blogging, refresh my focus, and in fact just to get back in the groove of my reflective entries. My mind has been elsewhere in microblogging land of late.

The challenge is also useful coming at a time when I am in blending mode, i.e., bringing together the content and focus of two quite disparate blogs – something apparently considered a no-no as it can put off readership or end up being too dispersed. Finding someone who blogs in the same niche as I do is a bit of a challenge, so I’ve decided to hone in on some blogs that attempt to cover more than one topic and do it in a way that I aspire to.There are more of these than you might imagine, however I want my blog to continue to focus on a couple of specific areas in the one place: contemporary performance and the theatre as well as the creative use of online technologies. It’s ‘niche’ insofar as it’s about the key interests in my life filtered through my own experience. This can be found in lots of places around the web – think images in Flickr and Vimeo, commentary in Twitter, scraps and treasure trove horded up in Tumblr and Delicious, conversations in Utterli, a scrapbook of reading found in my Google Reader feed and so on. I’m sure there are lots more. What I want is a hub for all of this activity. I want readers to be able to go directly to their area of interest. It’s layout and design that I have been focusing upon, and blogs that do this really well that I’ll watch with interest.

I’ve chosen three blogs that, each in its own way, provide a good model for my needs. They are Leoville where the incredibly busy journalist, producer and broadcaster Leo Laporte provides links and commentary on his diverse TWIT Empire; Chris Glass’ beautifully designed blog where form and function meet in a lovely minimalist aesthetic; and CogDogBlog a site where Alan Levine ‘barks about instructional technology’ and a whole lot else in a distinctive style.

Leo’s ‘Leoville’ is a well-structured and accessible static homepage which has drop down menus as well as links out to podcasts, commentary, shownotes, photography, and a bulletin board. A blog forms part of this big site. The homepage also contains Leo’s social networking sites to which readers can subscribe. This site gets an A for layout and ease of access, though the sheer bulk of the content can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve haven’t drilled down far enough to know whether there is content overlap.

Chris Glass’ blog reminds me of those wonderful Farmers’ Almanacs where you could dig around and find fascinating commentary and fact on a range of subjects from planting via phases of the moon to tide times and hints on storing produce for the winter. Chris’ photography and commentary are very personal, his curiosity about website design and experimentation are always beautifully presented; I’ve admired his individual touch in the ‘voice’ be brings to commentary as well as his blog design for years.

Alan Levine, as the ‘alpha dog’ is focussed on instructional technology, but he too diverts from time to time into social criticism and personal commentary on his lifestyle. As he puts it, the blog is ‘like a stew’ where stuff bubbles up from time to time. His photography is also a delight. I’ve not been reading CogDogBlog on a regular basis for a while now, but whenever I do, I’m engaged by Alan’s wit and relaxed writing style – the flavour of his ‘stew’ and a particular point of view.

What can I draw down from this? I’d like a blog that’s better organised to make navigation easy for my readers – and simpler to manage for me; an aesthetically pleasing design – layout, colour, typography matter to me; and an individual voice, a style, opinion that pull together the ‘niche’ that is fairly unique.






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