I recently received the blog birthday announcement from Tumblr. My blog is nine years old.
I started the blog in 2007 because I decided to include blogging as an assignment in a media writing course that I was teaching at the University of Florida. I thought I’d better start blogging myself to be better prepared to help guide the students with the project.
I called the blog “Thoughts on Teaching,” as teaching was going to be the primary focus of the blog. I created the blog on Tumblr because that was the most user-friendly platform in 2007.
My blog has had some changes over the nine years. When WordPress became the industry standard for blogging in the communications field, I moved my blog to that platform and changed my course assignment to require the students to create their blogs in WordPress.
A few months ago, I changed the name of the blog and the URL to connect the blog more directly to me and to expand the topics I’ll be writing about — juliedodd.net.
When I saw the digital birthday cake with the nine candles, I thought about what I’ve enjoyed, found challenging and learned from having my own blog. Here are some of those observations in hopes that you’ll find that interesting. By the way, this is post #572.
Sharing my experiences, advice and photographs with others
As a faculty member at the University of Florida who was teaching hundreds of students each year, I was asked many questions – and continue to be asked many questions.
Undergraduates want to know how to prepare for a career showcase. Graduate students wanted advice on how to negotiate a faculty job offer. Colleagues and teaching assistants asked curriculum questions, such as how to incorporate active learning into classes.
I decided to answer some of those questions on my blog because I knew others would have those questions, too.
Now that my blog has a wider scope, I look forward to sharing more of my nature and fitness activities. I recently completed the Hike 100 Challenge in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and enjoyed writing a post about my Hike 100 Challenge experience and including some of my photos from the hikes.
Recruiting others to contribute to my blog
Photographer and former student Daron Dean teaches an advanced photography course in the college and told me that he had invited his students to spend a day with him on assignment — from covering an event to photographing whatever news happened. I asked him if I could join him in photographing a Jaguars game, as he photographs all of their games. He said yes, and the result was a great learning experience for me and a blog post to offer tips about photographing sporting events.
My lecture assistant Nicki Karimipour suggested that I read Meg Jay’s “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter – and how to make the most of them now.” I read the book and then suggested that Nicki and I collaborate on blog posts about our perceptions of “The Defining Decade” and how Meg Jay’s advice applied to the college students we were teaching.
Colleague Judy Robinson and grad students Christine Eschenfelder and Casey Kochey joined me in live-blogging from a professional conference at the Poynter Institute that we were attending. That was a fun experience for all of us as we used our phones, laptops and tablets to write posts. Often it was like a relay race, as we handed off a laptop to the next blogger when one of us was presenting a session.
After announcing in class an opportunity to attend a workshop on creating LinkedIn profiles, two of my students – Erica Hernandez and Andrea Carroz – told me that they planned to attend the workshop. I asked them if they’d like to write blog posts about what they’d learned that I could share with others. They wrote three helpful posts about LinkedIn strategies that continue to be read every week by visitors to the blog.
Pressing the “Publish” button
With a personal blog, I can select my topic and determine my own timeline. I can determine the length of the post, the photos or illustrations used (within the boundaries of copyright), write my own headline/title, and decide on the links I want to include.
As soon as I’ve written the post, I can press the Publish button, and the post is live – on the Web for others to read.
Having written for a newspaper, magazines, academic journals, newsletters and a non-profit organization’s blog, I know the frustration of waiting for publication. In the case of freelance work and academic journal submissions, I could spend days, weeks and even months waiting to see if my writing was accepted for publication.
A personal blog can, however, have some downsides. You don’t have an editor to help you improve your story idea or writing. You don’t have a copy editor to review your story before it’s published. You don’t have a photographer or illustrator assigned to your story. You may have friends or colleagues to help in some of those areas, and you may improve your own skills to take on those other duties.
Connecting with my audience
With a blog, you can get feedback in real time. You can see the likes and read the comments. You also can check the stats the blogging platform provides, including the number of visitors your blog has every day and which posts are being clicked on – and, you hope, read.
When people comment or follow my blog, I check them out and often start following their blog or their tweets.
One of my most popular posts is “8 tips to Help Recent College Grads (and Others, Too) Find a Job.” I scheduled the post to publish on Labor Day. The post was selected by WordPress as one of about a dozen “Freshly Pressed” blogs (now called “Discover”) that day and received great response. I continue to receive positive feedback about the post providing hopeful advice and encouragement.
Thanks to all of you who have read my blog. A special thanks to those of you who have commented, provided feedback or asked questions that I can respond to as a blog post.
I’ve enjoyed sharing stories and photos during these nine years, and have learned so much about the topics I’ve blogged about, the people I’ve interviewed, and the technology involved in maintaining a blog.