Integrity of the Blog

tool theme for publishingpioneer

Although blogs are the most public form of publication, they are also the most personal. They tend to be the least crafted. And most are written to be read traditionally versus scanned. Great ideas are buried in mishmash. I am asked all the time, what is the difference between a blog, an article, or a social media topic? They all have strengths and uses, requiring specific approaches. The blog is rather between an article and a social media post, and often IS the post. I’ve often mistaken the use of the blog, personal and expressive of experiences, with the article which is more objective and journalistic.

The personal side of this blog contains my pet-peeves applied to blog-keeping. From participating for several years in other blogs and keeping my own, putting on my communication design hat, here are ideas in how to create an easy-to-read blog:

1. Keep word count short. It should not be longer than about three paragraphs or short enough to only require a one-click scroll.
2. Keep sentences short.
3. Scale the theme to a single topic, less than 400 words.
4. Be debatable or inspire additional comments, especially tying into Facebook.
5. Take a bold or controversial position to gain attention with other bloggers.
6. Test ideas—to see what is popular and what debates discussion. Develop the topics that get the most readers.
7. Use brevity. Don’t post a rough draft. Write one day, post the next, and build a momentum. Polishing too much here is not necessary. Better to be faster and less polished, but waiting one day will keep topics most appropriate.
8. Continually improve. If your entries lack frequency, take the blog down. Bloggers check 1) topic and 2) number of responses, and 3) how old the entry is. If it is really old, why should a reader bother commenting? No one is reading it.

There are millions of blogs and few get read. Those that do, however, can reach thousands of people. Content is King. If you aren’t committed to doing it well, you waste your time and leave a public black mark for all to see.

Commitment to a blog is major. Consider: if you spend one hour a day on blogging (or on doing anything), by the end of the year, you’ve devoted one entire month blogging (or performing whatever activity you’ve done for this time)!

What techniques do you employ to be an efficient but involved blogger?

Always inspired—Liane

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CONTACTS

Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com

PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com

LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian

EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

Sim Street Journal explores the relevance of virtual to real commerce and culture.

ONLINE: http://simstreetjournal.wordpress.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/SSJMagazine

IN-WORLD: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Innu/82/36/1650

MARKETPLACE: https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/148961

EMAIL: simstreetjournal@gmail.com

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Publishing Ripple Effect

ssj-covers for blog1-3

Each issue of Sim Street Journal strives for a balance between culture and commerce. Relevance between a second and first means that the virtual becomes a mirror, even a metaphor, for the real. If what is experienced in the second life does not affect the first, and vice versa, the resident is not telling the truth. It is impossible for first life to remain the same after a second one is formed. It is a one-way journey. There are those to leave, but they are always changed for the experience.

With nine issues of Sim Street Journal under the belt, how contributors find relevance always excites imagination and passion. The international culture, different forms of communication, hybrid society, freedom to build and explore, are all unparalleled in human experience. Technology pushes to greater realism and pervasiveness.

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Yet it is a rocky road. With such convenience and ease, it would seem the developing society would go smoothly. It is a true opportunity to do right in the virtual world that is so difficult to do in the real. The playing field of race, age, resources, all even out. Many feel doing business is easier, especially when trying new ideas. Many feel relationships are simpler, companionship is real, and the organizations that are built ripple out into real careers and lifestyles.

Sim Street Journal ripples out as a wonderful publishing sample. It integrates together the internet, the virtual world, social media, and here, blogging. It spins off overviews such as “Experiment” and “Progress by Design,” the first two of a series. Yet tribute must be paid to the pioneers that reality promoted the use of virtual worlds a few years ago before the truth of the hype was revealed. Today, those who understand the medium are realistic about its use and potential. This is especially expressed in Sim Street Journal #9 about virtual education.

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Virtual worlds as a metaphor reflects and influences all those who engage, but not without networking outward. It can even simplify reality, satisfy hobbies and entertainments, as it grows culturally and economically. It will migrate to be more professional and find easier interfaces. The train has left the station, and more people will board once it travels through the mountains and proves that it is an efficient way for getting from here to there.

—Always inspired, Liane Sebastian /Eleanor Medier •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••

Please see Sim Street Journal and visit the magazine on Facebook, as well as my Facebook page, and receive the magazine on Marketplace. E-mail me at eleanormedier@gmail.com if you are interested in contributing with article idea, profile suggestions, advertising, or anything else on your mind.

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Constructive Criticism

Hopefully every project finds a voice from the audience to give feedback. Zooming along on Sim Street Journal with a few months produced, Seth Regan volunteered a critique. Also a professional designer, Seth is a successful online musician and blends creative media. So I leaped at his offer, and made design refinements as a result.

First banner design with a casual approach.

First banner design with a casual approach.

Banner Design— The laid-back approach I had taken to the design, the kind of friendly understated feeling I sought, was not strong enough. Seth challenged me to make the design crisp, more scalable (my shadows got muddy in small sizes), and faster to read. The new banner keeps the road motif, but updates it into a bolder form.

New banner design with a crisp, simplified, yet consistent, approach.

New banner design with a crisp, simplified, yet consistent, approach.

Typography— Choosing a casual, friendly typeface in the beginning didn’t match the kind of content that developed. The magazine is not about entertainment, but  creativity and business. Therefore, a more flexible and serious face can elevate the pages to reflect the depth of content.

Facebook— This critique came about by asking Seth to be the magazine’s 500th “LIKE,” which he accepted. In SSJ’s now 6 months, we are over 600, with almost 8,000 readers from online and in-world combined. Besides the popularity of the articles, we promote various topics in Facebook, proving to be our most effective marketing. SSJ stands out in my current portfolio as a combination of design, editing, management, and publishing. It is inspiring to build readership and learn from reader preferences. Proud to say, the trajectory of growth continues, and feedback always welcome. —always inspired, Liane

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Developing the Content Suite

The last few months has seen a major shift in my work. Always interested to extend publication avenues as far as possible, I can’t help but approach each platform as another vehicle. The blend of media has to work as a suite, and the most I work, the more i learn about this blend.

Six months of Sim Street Journal is my best example of expanding and exploiting media. Starting out with the traditional pages, publications used to stop there. But now, I compliment the variations:

• In-world—first introduced in-world as a magazine that turns pages, now available for you to see that form in PDFs (issue so far available: download Sim Street Journal June 2013, Sim Street Journal #2Sim Street Journal #3Check back to see the collection increase).

• Online—it can’t be measured how many readers access both the online and the in-world versions, but to encourage that, I am evolving the content to be overlapping with some features exclusively in one or the other. This is a constant experiment. SSJ#6, for the first time, has the feature article divided between the two formats.

Blogs—these have evolved to reflect the back stories and lessons from the publication work that I do, as you are reading now. When I write about my personal life, or my family, I do so in a journal. But for anyone who cares about my biography, I provide a basic outline.

FaceBook—building readership has been the most fun I’ve had in these projects. Through this feedback and interaction, I can hone the approaches, content choices, and designs. But, Facebook is its own medium, and I have worked very hard in this last six months, to learn its parameters and advantages. I have yet to extend this to my personal Facebook pages, but this is now a New Year’s Resolution!

In essence, this doubles the publication. If there are six stories in an issue, then how each of these six translates across the channels, how the suite works together, and the reader experience, can be different. So this is my greatest source of experimentation. SSJ#6 combines several approaches to see how the readers respond:

• Divided—the Feature, Twelve Points of Relevance, is half online and half in-world (you will have to wait for when I get the PDF finished to compare).

• Reflective—the portrait of Kevin M. Thomas is the same text but the photographs are different.

• Complimentary—The ongoing column, The Aesthete and the Amateur, is also divided, but the favorite choices by the reviewers is published in-world, and critiques of the other works is published online.

• Exclusive—The Pioneer Portaits are available only online and From the Desk of Ann Slanders is only available in-world. The former because these are updates from my past interviews and the latter because you need some understanding of the virtual culture to make sense of context.

As confusing as this can feel to compose, another challenge is to make all this clear to the reader. Each story commands a different approach, so conveying these techniques is a communication challenge in itself.

I welcome critiques and thank those shy responders who prefer e-mail rather than submit comments here. However I get feedback is greatly appreciated! —always inspired, Liane

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Dividing Content

In learning about Facebook, I can’t help but look at it as yet another publishing medium. I know that it is more personal, fast-paced, and fun. So, setting aside a very entrenched professional hat is not easy. It is like asking an opera singer to dash off a five-minute jingle without warming up. This casualness from one formally trained in communications is not an easy adaptation.

Watching nieces and nephews glued to their Smart Phones (their Facebook pages ever-present), observing several colleagues spending all day on their laptops, scrolling through the hundred daily entries from Friends, I am amazed at it’s “stickiness.”

So, in preparing magazine articles, there is a continuum from the traditional page, to the online presentation, to the blogs that follow, to the Facebook community. Each reflects content in a different way, and I am determined to master them all.

SSJ#3 cover300For Sim Street Journal #3, I have created the traditional 100+ page virtual magazine for release in Second Life® and on Marketplace for residents. In the past, I have created PDFs too, so anyone can download, not needing to be a SL resident. Those are a lot of work, so SSJ#2 and SJ#3, I have not posted those as yet, though I did for SSJ#1.

SSJ is building significant readership. After the second issue, we had about 2400 total—3/4 online, 1/4 in-world. Now, a week after SSJ#3 has been released, we are  almost at 3,000! Quistis Shippe has been promoting the magazine on Facebook, originating the page, and helping me add content. Half of our online readers are coming from this source!

So I wrestle now with how to approach SSJ#4—breaking up the content into four forms: in-world pages, online pages, blogs, and Facebook.

My first real attempt at this fusion are the three albums i have placed on the SSJ page—mirroring the Table of Contents. It makes for an easier click-through to the articles.

For those of my readers on in-world, the theme of SSJ is relevance to the real world—how the cyber world is like looking in a mirror. So the reflections fracture like a prism: green is like Facebook flying by a mile a minute, blue feels like the blogs that can be more personal and emotional, yellow is like the online magazine where more time is spent, and red reminds me of the in-world publication, where I hope readers will stop, focus, and spend time reading page after page. —always inspired, Liane

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Examining Purpose

A month of transition means the ending of one publication (Bowler Business Review) and the starting of another (The Sim Street Journal).

I’ve always wished to have my own magazine to cover the friction between commerce and culture. This contentious relationship has fascinated me since I first picked up a pencil. Once discovering I could portray any fiction upon page, reality has always fascinated more. It seems any fiction that can be made up finds a reality even stranger. So, given the ability to draw anything that I can see and write anything I think, I learned the purpose of art—to portray what is not seen. Hence began my fascination with expression. The first question is: What should I say? Next: Who will see it? Third: can I get paid for it??

Then, when I joined Second Life®, the first thing I noticed is that this friction between money and art is reflected here—as if in a petri dish. For two years, I worked for in-world publications, determining the viability of the environment.

SSJ#0-preview cover-sm

Now I launch The Sim Street Journal to express the relevance of what is learned from this created environment that brings a global audience. Today when I logged in to my virtual studio, 62,000 people were logged in to this largest of virtual worlds.  That is about the size of the town that I live in. So, although no one knows the total population of SL, estimates indicate that it is 2-3 million—the size of a medium-sized American city. This is large enough to support a magazine in-world, but that feels like preaching to the choir.

What is much more challenging is to express the bridge from the virtual to the real. What is learned when we have unlimited choices? The fascination to experiment, follow roads not traveled, and to create fantasies is irresistible. The only reason that more people don’t also live in the virtual world is because it is hard to learn. It takes about a year to be really comfortable. But it takes about a year to adjust when moving long distance!

Integrating the virtual life with a real life needs study. Like the ultimate social media, the virtual world will continue to be used more; it now has its own momentum. It is psychologically revealing, extremely time consuming, and for some, more addicting than computer games. This latter, being a serious concern, needs some focus. It asks the question: why spend time in a virtual world? What am I doing there?

The Sim Street Journal will explore these questions. It will show how many have integrated the virtual world to enhance and augment their real one. Given an even playing field, the physical distinctions that are major in real life vanish. Appearance, age, location, and physical ability (other than sitting in a chair) are insignificant. What matters is behavior, skill, personality, ethics, talents, purposes, imagination, and time to devote.

I believe in this virtual world because it is the first truly international culture. Codes of behavior, trends, professions, and lifestyles all mirror the real, but have now taken on its own blend. Often when I go to a concert, I like to start a ‘wave.’ I will type into the local chat: “one world—waves from Chicago” and it gets picked up. It is very rare for any of the 20-30 people in the audience to be from the same place.

So a chronicle of what happens there, what is achieved, and who makes a difference there, seems needed now. SL celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. This international culture has marinated and sifted into an exciting, albeit at time dangerous, new society. It is one I hope to represent in all its highs and lows. —always inspired, Liane

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Refining Format

After analyzing ten months of readers for Bowler Business Review, of the almost 3,000, 75% of them read the issue online. Also an advantage online is copy, search, and more links than the in-world/PDF version.

However, the in-world/PDF version is essential for involving new readers, pleasing advertisers, and promotion. It supports the website, and that migration comprises about half of the online traffic. The rest come mostly from the ads on the Capital Exchange website.

So this month, I switched the emphasis: the in-world/PDF version is very visual with highlights, the full articles are online with less images. Then, hopefully, readers will access both. Yet each also stands alone as a complete, albeit complementary magazine.

How I balance this visually can be shown by the opener spreads from the magazine (please see my entry on the illustrative approach with patterns):

• Using a checkerboard pattern for the Skip Oceanlane article, the collage illustration can be more complex and larger than the traditional magazine page that needs to carry more text. The highlight copy of this in-world/PDF version can have a large point size, read easily on any devices or sized screens.

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The online full article version still carries the symbolic portrait designs and the patterned theme, but in a spot-style sprinkled through the text.

• The graffiti pattern serves as a background for the window design in Brandy (Kalli Birman)’s profile. She has a range of in-world activities, photographically expressed in the page spreads. The consistent design of each spread ties together the variety.

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Online, Brandy’s article better shows the graffiti patterns as simple dividers. It still has the same quality of grunge by treating the background now as detail.

• A visit to the KK Foods store is a bit overwhelming. With large rooms of grouped categories, whatever culinary craving any avatar may have can be satisfied. Rather than try to express those comprehensive rooms, the pattern of the food itself is more enticing. With the rich detail, the in-world magazine can showcase the product and store ambience.

opener-BBR12-KKA

Online, the focus becomes just the product itself. So visually well done, DavidSM Therian’s creations deserve to be framed and presented.

Hopefully this redefinition of formats interweave to give readers a more comprehensive experience. One no longer tries to duplicate the other, but brings content with more media integrity. —Always inspired, Liane Sebastian

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