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Blogging, where do I start?

A friend recently started blogging for her NGO. She asked me for a few tips on blogging. Instead of just sharing with her what I have learned I thought I would share it here for everybody to benefit and connect better with their tribe.

-Writing about topics you are passionate about makes things a lot easier.

In his book “Crush It”, Gary Vaynerchuk recommends blogging about something 500 times. If you can do that, you can be sure that you are passionate about the subject. If that seems really hard, try tweaking the focus of your writing. For example. If you are a food blogger and love to travel, focus on travel cuisine or obscure locations and their foods. It sure worked for Anthony Boudin!

-Make it as short or as long as you want.

Some of my favorite bloggers often only post a sentence. Don’t let anyone tell you “you have to do it this way or that”. My friend Jon Dale wrote an excellent post on this topic. I completely agree with him.

-Use an editorial calendar.

Woman writingWhat is that? It is any way that you plan out your posts based on a set schedule. I use a couple of different tools depending on the blog. You can use Google calendar, a WordPress plugin or a paper calendar. One helpful way to make this tool your best friend is to write down even the simplest idea (for me it sometimes is a video or web link or a topic headline.) Then I can go back and write the post later. At least I captured the idea and scheduled it for a possible post date. Before you know it you will have months worth of posts planned.
Here is more on editorial calendars:

Editorial Calendar: from sporadic to consistent blogging

-Enlist the help of others

If you are blogging for an organization, ask others to help you write posts. For one company I created a blogging team with every employee. From the fifty plus employees, we ended up with a team of about ten dedicated bloggers. Find a way to incentivise the plan. You may be surprised by the results.

Another way to gather help is to invite others to guest post. Plan this well. You always want to make sure the message stays on topic.

-Think outside the regular “post.”

A blog post can be a picture, video, cartoon. Open up the limits of what you think a blog post is. Break some rules.

-Become a regular blog reader.

Find a few blogs that you enjoy. They don’t even have to be limited to your topic either. Make it a point to pay attention to the posts that get you thinking or wanting to comment in response. Those are the ones that have just inspired a new blog post of your own. Take whatever you are thinking or wanting to comment and turn it into a post of your own. I always try to link it back to the original inspiration somehow and give credit to where the idea originated. Sometimes it does not work that way. That is ok too.
Here is a post I wrote on that topic.

Turning that comment into a blog post

-Don’t hold back

One lesson I have learned is not to edit myself. Yes, be careful not to post things that will get you or your organization in trouble. In other words, don’t be stupid. That said, there is plenty of room for more here. Being too careful also makes us boring.
If this is a topic that you love, I guarantee you will have a controversial thing to say about it. Say it.

-Gather some tools that will help you become a great writer.

I love to write. Editing, not so much. I have become a great at it with a little help. Here are some resources that will help.

1. I found this tool about a month ago and it has not only made my writing better but has taught me so much. The full version has over 250 points of grammar checks. The free version checks 150 of the most common error. Check it out and be amazed.

2. Focus better with OmmWriter. This tool turns your Mac into a focused writing environment. Making it hard to jump into the browser and keeping your social apps and notifications at bay allows that time for the good writing to happen. I just free write when I have it open.

3. A journal for your notes. I try to carry one of these everywhere. I do use my phone as well, but I prefer a paper journal for the days I want to be offline. I jot random ideas. Coming back from a conference once, I wrote ten blog posts in my journal and later transcribed them to the blog. You never have to worry about batteries dying either.

Well, that has been a lot to digest. I have turned off comments since I have been blogging daily (another useful tip if you want to focus on writing and not answering comments), but I will turn them on for this post. Please ask me anything and I will try to answer them as best as I can or enlist the help of some blogger friends.

Happy blogging and connecting!

A news refresher

Are you informed?

And if you believe so, who delivered your news?

How well do you know them and how they make their living? (Hint: someone paid them.)

These are just a few question to ask before you read one more article in a newspaper, blog or watch one more pundit on TV, Youtube or your Snapchat Discovery.

Even more important, find out before you share any of it with others.

How do we find the answers? It is easy. For years sites like has worked to keep a very thorough list of media ownership and practices. Digest it. Look up your local paper. Find out.
Here is their latest summary: .

For a deeper look, I try to keep this post updated every quarter.

-All the news that’s tailored to read

Your Dream Is My Dream

“Your dream is my dream now, and I’ll make it come true.” — Lady Sybil to Gwen in Downton Abbey.

You can read the rest of this post on Huffington Books.

I wrote my latest Huffington Post article starting with that beautiful quote from Downton Abbey with Ryan and Amy Green, Amy Dale, Anthony Vigilate, Nat Iwata and AJ Leon in mind. Now, when do I get to see your dream?

Icarus Deception and V for Vulnerable Givaway

It has been a while since I did a book giveaway and you will not want to miss this one. Last spring I backed the higher level of Seth Godin’s Kickstarter project for publishing his latest book The Icarus Deception. You can basically call it his challenge to conventional publishing. He believes that it takes a community to successfully sell a book instead of a slick publishing campaign. Seth delivered a whole slew of rewards this past week and I want to give some of it away.

Giving The Icarus Deception away without a call to action just did not seem right. I don’t have a lot but as Theodore Roosevelt said “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

So I thought I would share a bit about a group I am volunteering with as a writer. Two weeks ago I joined the Exodus Road as a storyteller. As part of a fleet of bloggers around the world, I will be telling stories about real life raids, those on the ground and many other interesting reports of what The Exodus Road and partners are doing to rescue women and children from sex slavery in SE Asia.

To do these efforts Exodus has to fund brothel raids. These raids require state of the art technology and support for the brave undercover operatives infiltrating locked brothels to rescue the victims. The raid funds will also pay for investigative work to document and prosecute those committing these crimes.

So here is how the giveaway works.

There will only be one person receiving the whole package that includes two copies of Icarus Deception (one to keep and hopefully one you will gift to someone has art the world needs to see), and one copy of V is for Vulnerable, a picture book written by Seth Godin and Illustrated by Hugh MacLeod.

To be entered into the contest all you have to do these two steps.

1. Share the raid funding site on the twitter using a link on Twitter, Facebook, pinterest or Google Plus. Here is the link

2. Post a comment here and make sure you leave a link where you shared it above.

(some have reported that Disqus comment system has not allowed them to comment. If that happens please send me a note at john at and I will post your entry. Make sure the subject in your email is “pick yourself”)

It is up to you whether you donate or not. But just think. What you and your community gives will free someone from slavery. Wow!

So far Exodus has had 348 teams’ Prosecutions to date, 622 victims saved By teams, 15 undercover operatives and 11 organizations supported. Now that is truly incredible.

Thanks and have fun. The contest will end Monday the 17th at midnight (Pacific Standard Time). I will then randomly pick the winner using a great unbiased third party service.  I will announce the winner on Monday the 17th. Also, I will ship free only to the continental US. If you are beyond that I will require payment to offset the cost.

Some Things Shouldn’t be Automated: Authors Engaged Online Revisit

For a long  time I have wondered how I could better automate a twitter list (Authors-Engaged-Online) I created out of one of my most popular blog posts: Chatting with Hemingway in your study .  This post explains why I created the list. A while back I created a that pulled from that list and also sent out a message promoting the top story from that list (I am still not sure how it picked a top story).  Some people love it and I am glad it added value to your day.  Some people hated it.I realized something when I sat down today to dig into some ideas of how to better automate what my favorite authors say .  The number of Authors that actually do engage with their readers on twitter or any place for that matter is very small.  It really is a great resource.  Why then should it be automated?  If it is as valuable as I think it is then I should be the one picking the top story posted from that list.  I should be the first one who drinks from the well.Some things just should not be automated.  So here is what I plan to do.  I will be pulling something everyday from that list (it may include something I found from them on Google Plus, their blog, Facebook or any other site they frequent, (or even their books!).  It will supplement instead of replace one of my regular blog slots on each day.  I will try to write a short summary of why what they posted is being highlighted.So there you have it.  Instead of automating the list I have moved it up into something I touch everyday.  Why? Because I think it is that valuable!  I think you will too.

Taking a break

It has been nearly a month since my last post.  I took a deliberate break for a few reasons.

Some big transitions are in the works.

My wife started her new career as a special education teacher.  You can read her blog where she writes not only about special ed but all about overcoming life’s obstacles.  We are moving to be closer to our work as well and the one thing that has really required me to walk away from the blog most is my team at Soma Games is launching a new game calles Wind Up Robots.

For a couple of days I struggled with not posting.  A year ago after reading Gary Vaynerchuk‘s Crush It I decided to make the goal of posting consistently for a year.  Then after a year I would decide if this blog was something I wanted to continue.  October was the anniversary of that goal and I am even more passionate about this blog than I was a year ago.  I have long list of posts I still want to write.

The last reason I took a break was I was feeling a bit burned out. I needed to step back and reassess my own communication.  In my last post I wrote that I was planning to do an audit.  Here is what I found.  Like before I realized that I needed to rengage with those in my inner circle.  They are the ones I turn to most for many reasons. Because of busyness and the general blessings of an ever widening tribe, I had begun to lose connection with the core people in my life.

In order to reconnect I got out my tool box and found some ways to make sure I know what that inner circle is doing.  I started reading their blogs again.  I kept up on their social media updates before I read anything else.  I will post in detail how I did that but the main thing I continually learn is that to grow and sustain a community both online and in the real world, we need to invest, engage and participate.

Next week I will begin regular posting.  Have a great Thanksgiving.

Choose Wisely Mr. Cameron

Yesterday Britain’s Prime Minister announced that he has asked security forces to consider a way to limit the public’s use of social media sites as a way to curb or prevent rioting, looting and other thuggery. As soon as I heard this news I was at first shocked that a member country of the free world would even consider such a move. Yes, communication tools have been used to spawn horrible acts in the past, probably the worst in current history was the use of the media, both print and radio, to spread the Hutu’s message of ethnic cleansing across Rwanda in 1994.
Today with connectedness having become far reaching with tools like Twitter, Facebook and now Google Plus, we do have a greater responsibility in measuring the impact of our words and messages. But to go as far as limiting communication, in my opinion, turns what is a small event compared to genocide into a mark on the freedoms of the British people that will not be easily forgotten. Worse yet I think it shows a lack of understanding what social media really offers. For decades the media has been carefully controlled and even scripted by politicians and governments to execute policy-driven messages. The White house and Downing Street has for decades been very careful to share and suggest what images they wish the media to use and what sound bytes or speeches they wish to be publicized. The journalists that adhere to this policy are the ones given special access or first knowledge of breaking news. The ones that violate it quickly learn to adjust. (read more on how policy is shaped and controlled through the media. This article was written in 2005 and does not include the greater changes since the growth of social media). With new media though, there is no control over what is said. Large media companies no longer have the podium they used to have over blogs, celebrities and others that have risen in popularity. Events are reported as they happen through open channels of communication.

Before Mr. Cameron decides to give social media a heavy hand to curb thuggery, I hope he considers the true power he holds. Just as King George VI used the radio to calm his realm and prepare them for the battle that was before the nation, Prime Minister Cameron can choose to use the powerful reach given him just as it is given to every citizen he is considering silencing. I hope he chooses wisely.

You have time to read

An entrepreneur starting a new business was asking for advice on specific connecting tools this week. I gave him a few tips. Ultimately though, I told him there were a few books that would supply him with everything he needed to know. Plus they would cover the topic in greater detail. His reply was a simple “I don’t have time to read”. Really, I asked? Not even an audio book while you travel?

Reading keeps us sharp and helps us stay constant students not only of our own trade but the world around us. On average in the US Adults spend 2.73 hrs a day watching TV and an average of 23 minutes commuting to and from work*. Those are just a few segments of time that could be used. Books are available in many forms making it easy for the busy person on the go. I am currently reading three books with my kindle account on three devices that sync between each other. I can grab a section on my MacBook Pro, pick it back up on my Droid X sitting in a doctor’s office and then continue at the same spot as I settle into bed with my iPad. Some ebooks can even read to you while you commute (including two my company developed) and others can also be synced through your favorite audio program like iTunes, Spotify or Google Music.

If you tell me you are too busy to read I will tell you that you wrong. You are missing out on valuable information to help you not stagnate in an ever changing business world. Most of all though, you are missing all the benefits that a good book offers. Peace, perspective and a stimulated mind. If you still feel you don’t have time, my friend Tara can point out all the time you don’t know you actually have.

*figures based on US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Gallup poll.

Brevity and connection

Twitter taught me how to get a point across in 110 characters of text. Many of us noticed our writing improve on blogs and in books. Another benefit was the ability to know quickly if you were someone I wanted to connect with. In the short descriptions on a good twitter profile I knew who you were, what you did and where you did it. Better yet I had a link to find out more.

As people add me to circles on Google + I am noticing a common occurrence. Just like twitter, Google Profiles are where I quickly assess whether I want to add you to a circle or not. Several profiles read like resumes or worse they are just one solid block of five hundred words or more. Most of all they are boring.

The profiles that catch my attention are short, creative and utilize all the tools that Google has offered including the photos banner. And like twitter, really your profile is as good as your last post.

Like the subject of this post I am keeping it brief. Please feel free to comment, disagree or share your own profile insights.

If we are not connected on Google + you can find me at See you there.

Giving Pause in Google + (or anywhere)

While doing research writing policies for my former employer, I ran across Intel’s social media policy. To this day the one line that still sticks with me is “if it gives you pause, pause” meaning that if anything makes you stop and think maybe it should not be shared on the web or wise counsel should be sought before doing so. This past week Google + surprised me with a notice when I began to share a friend’s post. The box appeared when I clicked share reminding me that it had originally been intended for a limited audience and asking me if I really wanted to do that.

I loved the reminder. All of us could use a pause button. To this day my post on filtering your tweets is still one of my most read entries. We make mistakes, are impulsive and even at our best often lack judgement. We let things slip that should not be said. We say things to people we quickly regret. Is it so bad to have filters and checkpoints? Google found it worthy enough to include it in their sharing methods.

My grandfather told me once that I should pause before saying anything and roll it around my head first. He said that trying it on first will help to say something more meaningful. As we have increasing ways to broadcast ourselves, pause is more valuable than we may realize.

Join me on google plus. If you don;t have an account I have plenty of invites. Send me your gmail account name on my contact form.

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