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Blog Review Checklist

Miss Em turned me on to another way to evaluate one’s blog. Never one to pass up a chance to evaluate myself (yes, I should be NaNoing right now!), I’ve answered it!

Audience: What words would your readers use to describe your blog? What do they like best about your site?

Well, I don’t know. I’ve had some preconceptions about what people like about this place that were totally shattered when I actually asked. I’d like to think that people think my journal is: interesting, intelligent, entertaining, funny, and thought-provoking. I’m afraid people think my journal is: boring, self-serving (well, it is), unorganized, poorly written, unfocused, and in a rut.

As for what people like best…I would have to assume they like the personal anecdotes and the photos. The few times I’ve tried to be funny have only been met with silence or derision. My regular readers typically don’t comment on my politics or culture stuff (unless, paradoxically, I say something funny), so those usually only get comments from random passersby who I suspect have just been googling their cause-of-choice and commenting everywhere about it.

Purpose: What is the purpose of your blog? Why does it exist? Is the purpose stated plainly where your readers can see it? How well does your blog meet that purpose?

I do not have a clearly stated purpose anywhere on the site. I think I will try to incorporate one into the redesign (you know, that mythical creature powered by WordPress).

My purpose is to share my life and to open up opportunities to discuss things. That’s pretty broad, but I don’t want to pigeonhole the blog or I won’t write anything. I imagine this means I probably won’t have a huge readership, ever.

Content: How well does the content support the purpose? Is the content readable, interesting, accurate, entertaining, and appropriate for your audience?

All my content is readable, because writing is one of my talents. I can phone it in and still end up with something above comprehensible. (Readers, meet my ego. Oh? You’ve already met?)

All my content is interesting…to me. But I’m weird. I don’t know what’s interesting to other people. That people other than my friends and family read this thing indicates that at least some of what I write is interesting to some portion of the population. I’m just not sure how sizeable a portion it is.

I strive for accuracy. I don’t just make shit up and post it. I don’t like misrepresenting people or ideas. Sometimes I’ve written whole posts and then removed them because they weren’t supported by facts (and I was too lazy to find any).

Entertaining…well, I like to think that my writing voice is at least somewhat entertaining. It’s the content that’s the sticking point. I write about what I care about. There isn’t going to be a single reader who cares about everything I care about, but hopefully enough people care about enough of what I write about to find reading this thing enjoyable.

As for being appropriate to my audience, well, my audience is friends, family, and random passersby. I know, I know, in writing you are always writing to an imaginary audience, and you should keep them in mind at all times. Well, I imagine that my audience is a group of intelligent, confident, witty people who like learning and sharing knowledge, especially about the things that interest me (Japan, language, culture, travel, personal and community responsibility, family, writing). So yes, I think what I write is appropriate to this hypothetical audience. I just don’t know if those people actually exist.

Design: How well does the look of the blog communicate the kind of blog it is? Is navigation easy and intuitive? Do items flow naturally from the first to the next? Do the color palette, image, and type choices support the content or call attention away from it?

I corrected a spelling error in this one. Can you spot it in the original article?

Well, let’s start with my title graphic. When I created it, I added the subtitle “an online collection of works” because I intended for the journal to be simply one subsection of a greater site, filled with all kinds of writing and art. Now I sort of see the journal as being the backbone of the site, and I don’t think the subtitle makes sense the way it is. I’d edit it, but I don’t have the picture I used to create the image anymore. It was one of a series of spring shots around my apartment complex, taken (I think) in 2003. I guess I never uploaded those shots to smugmug.

The navigation sucks. There are no categories, and you have to scroll way down the page to get to the archive lists. I do like that I have the archive pages listing the post titles only, because that makes it a little easier to scan for a post you’re looking for, but that’s about the only good thing. Ultimately I need categories and perhaps a section highlighting some particularly good posts (whichever ones those might be), and I may even want to have “previous post/next post” navigation on individual post pages. All of this will be possible with WordPress, so I haven’t bothered seeing if I can accomplish it in Blogger.

My menus are a little hard to navigate because they aren’t bullet lists. It’s hard to tell where one link ends and the next begins without hovering the mouse over them.

As far as the general design, I think it’s pretty, and while it’s unique, it’s similar enough to normal blogs that people can find their way around without too much difficulty. I have an easy to read sans-serif font, and I don’t apply too many styles to the text. When I created this design I wanted the words to be paramount. I’m still not perfectly happy with my link colors and style, but I’m not sure what to do about it.

Posts: Do you post on a consistent schedule the information readers came to find? Do your posts reflect the unique purpose and style of your blog? Do they offer variety and interest within your blog’s purpose and theme?

Assuming readers come to find what I currently think is worth writing about, yes, I do post that consistently! But otherwise, no…while I post a lot, I don’t post the same way all the time. I’ll have a streak of anecdotes, then a streak of news, then a streak of selfindulgent crap that no one cares about

Comments: Do you read and respond to comments to form a sense of community? Consider which posts get most comments and which get none. How does that effect the topics that you’re posting on?

I love comments! I respond whenever I have something to say. I think it’s dumb to respond if I don’t have anything meaningful to add.

Sometimes comments inspire me to write new posts. It hasn’t happened a whole lot, but it has happened. I would like it to happen a lot more.

However, just because a post hasn’t gotten any comments doesn’t mean I won’t make another similar post. I’m stubborn like that :>

Technical Issues: Have you checked lately to see whether and how fast your blog loads in other browsers? Have you overdone the use of plug-ins and gadgets, making the experience more confusing than fun?

Hmm. I don’t check the blog in other browsers much. I did notice a table error that shows up in Firefox, but I haven’t tried to do anything about it because it won’t exist when I shift to WordPress. (Any aeon now…)

I don’t have plug-ins and gadgets, but I do have a lot of pictures. Especially lately. It has occurred to me that people might not appreciate that…

Writing: Is your writing clear and respectful of your readers? Have you established a writing voice that lets readers know who you really are? Is the blog essentially free of errors in grammar, usage, spelling, and punctuation?

Hahahaha, do I even have to answer this one? Well, maybe the respectful part. I think my writing is kind of jocular, treating the readers as equals yet joking around with them.

Organization: Have you set up your categories to draw readers into your backlist? Do you feature “Golden Oldies” that new readers would have interest in? Do you name your Categories things that readers can understand?

No categories ;_; And I need to feature old posts, as mentioned above. I FAIL!

Marketing: What are you doing to let readers know that you are here? Are you listed in the right directories? Do you read and comment on other blogs within your readership? Have you included feeds?

There are directories?

:>

I read and comment on my readers’ blogs, in general, if I’m grabbed. I wouldn’t want someone to read me out of a sense of obligation, and I don’t read other blogs out of a sense of obligation either. If I’m reading your blog, it’s because it’s good enough to hold my interest.

That may not be the best mindset for gaining a readership, but hell, I don’t have time to read mediocre blogs. (And I don’t have the patience for it anyway.)

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So that’s how I shape up. It looks like my biggest issues are categories and a featured posts section. Maybe I’ll do something about that before I shift to WordPress, or maybe I’ll resume work on the WordPress thing. (It’s a good thing the work I was doing on that was online, or I would have lost it all in the fire…)