Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tips from an Aging Beginner

The other day, I turned fifty. I spent some wonderful moments with my family, and friends we have made since moving to Manila nearly four years ago. Don’t worry,
I am not mentioning my birthday to solicit your belated notes of congratulations. This is about getting older. My age, and all that goes with it, has become an incentive to exert special efforts to stay in touch with technological developments. These have been particularly dazzling in the fields of media and communications.

While in many parts of the world younger members of society (I can see this with my 18-year nephew in Germany) are exposed to the products of technological progress on an almost daily basis, as one grows older one has to pro-actively seek and make special efforts to stay in touch with technology’s advances.

As a journalist with a professional interest in political communications, I am fascinated by the impact and also the potential of the digital media. A few weeks ago, I facilitated a workshop for communications workers of Asian liberal political parties entitled “Political Parties and the Internet.” The one-week affair was co-sponsored by the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) and help in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For me, preparing for the workshop was an opportunity to seriously look into blogging.

There are tons of related materials on the Internet and also various printed publications. Beyond the online research and the ultimate (and time consuming) method of “learning by doing”, I wish to recommend two sources for new (pastime) bloogers.

While a bit out-of-date, I found Rebecca Blood’s “The Weblog Handbook” very useful and full of practical tips. She also gives an interesting history of the origins of the blogs which started out as rather simple collections of links. After reading the book you will probably spend hours and hours surfing the net, checking out blogging software and scrutinizing existing online journals. There is probably no better way to get started than to do just that.

If you have already posted your own blog, which in any case should be a stimulating experience, you should check out the “usability”-study by Jakob Nielsen. In a recent paper, Nielsen describes “The Top Ten Design Mistakes” of weblogs. Among the “mistakes” Nielsen mentions is – mea culpa – the “unregular publishing frequency,” which, of course, should be avoided in favor of a publication schedule which one should stick to.

Nielsen also recommends getting (buying) an own domain-name. Weblog addresses ending in blogspot.com or typepad.com, are for him “the mark of a naïve beginner who shouldn’t be taken too seriuosuly.”

Harsh words, I think, maybe even too harsh.

In the mean time, I will see how this writing and publishing project of mine develops. Should I manage to stick to a regular schedule – as Nielsen and others advise – I would consider migrating to an own domain. Until then, I am grateful to Blogger.com for their all inclusive and extremely user friendly services. Salamat po!

P.S.: Speaking of my birthday, one of the many presents my dear wife gave me was an Ipod Nano . I’ve been busy checking out all the features of this little wonder machine. Of course, I have also downloaded various political podcasts. As a former radio editor (and acting freelance radio reporter) I am thrilled to see the revival of (digital) audio. I am actually contemplating to start my own little podcast, if not for the sole reason but to stay in touch with technological progress.


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