I was tweeting with @BartHoekstra and lo and behold, he was willing to share some of his insights with the #projcomm14 team. So here it is, with a big thank to Bart!
Two years ago now, I was, just like you, taking part in Project Communities (#projcomm12 back then). Since then, I’ve quit the course and started studying Future Planet Studies at the University of Amsterdam. I found out I’m more of an academic interested in the systemic future challenges of our society than a designer trying to tackle specific issues through the power of designed interventions. Nevertheless, being a long-time Twitter ‘friend’ (we’re mutual followers) of Maarten I saw him favorite a tweet in which Nancy (whom I still follow as well) asked her followers to comment on your blog posts. Since I’m still interested in what Industrial Design Engineering students are doing, I decided to take a look.
Looking back at my Project Communities experience, I remember it being a very interesting project. I’m an avid user (and critic) of online communication and collaboration platforms, which is why you can literally find me everywhere online. Yet the project still made me think of new ways of using the kind of tools/platforms I used so often. I’m not entirely sure anymore of what exactly my project was about, but I remember working on something combining the principles/features of Ushahidi and OpenIdeo for charity:water.
Nancy linked to the ‘Pure Awesomeness in Dannyland’ blog page. One of the writer’s blogs mentions the importance of hearing and seeing people’s needs. Now that I’m not part of the project anymore, it becomes clear how hard it is for an outsider to have any idea of what it is exactly that you’re doing. (Heck, it’s quite possible that you don’t even know yourself.) I mentioned that to Nancy and she asked me to write a guest blog about that. As an outsider, I clearly have different needs that need to be fulfilled in order for me to respond. So here are my 2 cents (2 tips)
1. Ask specific questions
I think the internet is a great place for public discussion and collaboration. Although many comment sections are best left ignored (especially on bigger (news-related) websites or Youtube), personal and small-scale blogs are still great discussion platforms.
Depending on the goal of your blog post, you might want to receive feedback from others on what you have written. In my experience it’s very important that a blog therefore either addresses or poses a specific question or sparks a discussion through a bit of controversy. If that’s missing it becomes really hard for an outsider to comment on what you’ve written.
So I’d totally recommend to ask specific questions that you would like to discuss in the comment section of your blog posts. Doing so would make it much easier for others to participate. Especially to strangers that lowers the threshold to comment significantly. It’s remarkable how willing people are to help and voice their opinions about things when asked. A good example of that might be a question I posed during my Society and You project on Quora. It’s amazing to see how such a, perhaps seemingly trivial, question about food preparation can spark such elaborate replies.
2. Provide a clear and interesting title
When scanning the list of blog posts you’ve written, it occurred to me that many titles either are kind-of creative-y and hard to comprehend or — quite frankly — a little boring. Although to some it might sound either sophisticated or very interesting, I think it does not encourage a visitor to actually take a look, especially when that visitor is a stranger to you.
Again, it depends on the goal of your blog post, but I can imagine that you’d like as many people as possible to actually see and read what you’ve written. In my opinion good titles for blogs strike a balance between being overly clear and perhaps somewhat click-baity. In other words: somewhere in between what you’d read on the BBC website and Upworthy’s Facebook post. The first could be ‘Client reception of proposal’, the latter ‘These students spoke with their client and you’d never imagine their response’. Somewhere in a balanced middle would be ideal, I think.
So, my recommendation would be to find out what kind of a title works for you and the audience you (want to) write for. What would you click on yourself? Which posts seem to resonate the most with your audience and how could it be the title affects that?
Now, as a matter of good practice I have a question for you: What triggers you to comment on an article or blog you read? In case you never comment anywhere, why is that and what could change that?