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Monday, 14 February 2011

One Year of Blogging - What I have learnt so far

This, would you believe it, is my first anniversary Blog post. Over the past year I have touched on topics as diverse as religion in railways, right through to modern railway issues. I can’t say I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the process, and at times I have struggled to find something to say. However, it has been rewarding, inspiring and useful to me. I hope that you, dear reader, have also enjoyed my posts and will continue to follow my blog in the year ahead. In this post I hope to touch on some of the things that I have learnt in the process that will, hopefully, improve my blog in the future.

I am not a miracle-man – No, sadly I am not. In around September and October I started to write a blog post every other day. My goodness, it was a mistake. Not only did I rack my brains constantly for things to say, but I found that my other work, the PhD, began to suffer. The main thought behind starting the blog was that I wasn’t time burdened with teaching classes, something that full-time PhD students usually do. Thus, the blog would naturally fill this space. Yet, writing seven blog posts per fortnight was too much, even though it did have a positive effect on the number of hits I received.

People are more interesting that Management – Well, this one took a while to realise. I am by default a railway historian but my PhD is placed, quite naturally, under the banner of ‘business history.’ Thus, most of my material in the early days of the blog was of a managerial bent. I realise that sometimes I still post things of this nature, but I do see in the statistics that they are not as popular. Thus, in September or October I started writing more about railway employees, as these posts invariably attracted more attention. This policy has subsequently met with much success.

Don’t start a boring side-project– Does anyone remember ‘Turniprail +Documents?’ I have a very large collection of railway documents from railway history which I find fascinating. Thus, I started the ‘+Documents site’ as a way to show them off and by proxy promote my main blog. This site monumentally failed as virtually no one looked at it. Presumably, everyone wasn’t really interested in my documents and I suppose as the ‘historian in the room’ it was my job to interpret their contents and write something interesting about them. Unsurprisingly, I ended the project very quickly.

My interest is not everyone’s – If you could only see my cutting-room floor. I have posted entries on the blog that were much longer in their first draft because I wrote parts that I alone found interesting. If you look back at my early posts you will see this. However, I soon came to realise that putting in too much irrelevant detail can be stifling for the reader. This doesn’t mean I have stopped doing it. However, I can now identify the boring parts and catch them before they get on the site.

Social Networking is a great, but Google is better – Many of you are no doubt reading this because I either posted this article on Twitter or my Facebook group. That’s great, and many thanks for following me, I do value it. However, as the number of posts has risen, so have the hits that I have received from search engines. Over the year they have provided me with a third of my traffic, yet, in the last month they constituted half. Thus, people are finding the site and my work because I am now becoming an internet presence. I suppose this percentage can only go up.

Referencing is Important – I am not entirely sure whether any the information on my site has been used in books or articles elsewhere (and please shout if it has). However, I have come to the realisation that referencing my sources in my posts is highly important. Firstly, I want what I write to be used by historians elsewhere. Secondly, I don’t just want this site to be something that forgotten by historians when I stop adding to it. I want it to be a resource for many of them in the future. As such, I now reference everything so that the posts are taken seriously academically and will also stand the test of time.

One Document can be interesting – I still sometimes write highly involved pieces where the references are coming out of my ears. Nethertheless, I have learnt that simply using one document for a post can be the path to getting it out when time is at a premium. More importantly, blogs on individual documents can also be equally as interesting as multi-sourced ones.

Of course, this isn’t everything I have learnt over the past year, to write that list would be laborious. Yet, these are my central revelations that I will hope will improve my blog in the future. Lastly, all that remains to be said is to thank you for reading my work…and here’s to the next year!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to the coming year. I followed your link from Facebook as I tend to get lost at Twitter even though the vast majority of the tweets I follow are either Railroad or Model Railroad in nature. Regarding historical documents .. I suppose it is largely dependent on the interest of the individual. Of course if I happened on a manuscript in a dusty pile of junk that 'just happened' .. to be written in the same .. text .. as the Voynich Manuscript I guess that would be of a little more interest. Ha.


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