Thursday, May 25, 2006

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Boating Bloggers

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger challenged his readers this week to write a post on The Habits of Effective Bloggers. The idea was to create a fun article, written in the style of Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that would outline some characteristics that new bloggers might find useful.

Effective? Ugh. That's one of those management-speak words. But that's the word used in the challenge thrown out by ProBlogger and I suppose he's allowed to use words like that because he writes about how to make money from blogs. But I blog for fun only - and so do most of my readers - so let me define "effective" my way. As far as I am concerned you are an "effective" blogger if you make me want to keep coming back to your blog over and over again, if I look forward to your next post, if you entertain me, inform me, make me think.

So here are Tillerman's Seven Habits of Highly Effective Boating Bloggers ...

Be original
You are a unique human being. Your boating experiences and perspectives are different from every other boater's. Tell us about your sailing or kayaking or whatever it is you do. Tell us about the thoughts about sailing that were going through your mind on the way to work today. We really are interested. Dare to be different. A couple of examples that come to mind are Tim Zim's ongoing account of converting a fishing trawler into a home, and Zensekai a blog about a man and a boat apparently both named Zen, full of musings about Zen, Feng Shui, Tai Chi and sailing. Both unique. Both fascinating.

On the other hand, please do not be the tenth blogger today to tell me about Dee Caffari's achievement in being the first person without a Y chromosome to sail backwards round the world without stopping with one hand tied behind her back, or whatever it is she did. I can read that on her website or even in the mainstream media. Unless of course, like Fuff you happen to be moored in the same marina as Dee and you have a story about how your mate Fur had an encounter with said anticlockwise antipodean adventurer.

And don't just relay news from the Volvo Ocean Race. I can read that in multiple places. Yes, we are all sad about Hans Horrevoets but don't write about it in your blog unless you can bring an original perspective as OG from Live Sail Die did when she wrote about meeting him during the race's stopover in Victoria.

Be regular
No - I'm not talking about laxatives. I'm talking about your blog. You may not be able to post pretty much every weekday like Zephyr, but please please don't be one of those people who write a few interesting posts over two or three months and then disappear off the face of the earth - or at least the blogosphere - for an indeterminate period. I know you're not sailing every day. But you are thinking about boating every day aren't you? Don't we all? I do.

Be passionate
I assume you're writing about boating because it is your passion. Or at least one of your passions. Let us hear your enthusiasm for the sport in your blog. Here for example is Tim Coleman from All Day I Dream About Sailing summing up a Friday evening practice sail in a post entitled The return of the demented beast.

Now the fun really begins! What follows next is one screaming reach with spray going every where, I am constantly playing the main and spilling wind and the she is just skimming over the water at breakneck speed! The demented beast has returned! Man this is just great! I am half inclined to stay out a bit longer but I know that with no rescue boat about it would be foolhardy so we head in and call it a day. Boy what a great sail! And the weekend hasn't even started!
Be graphic
This one is probably going to offend the purists who think that blogging should be purely a textual medium. And I am sure there are some great blogging writers out there who keep their readers entertained with nothing but thousands of verbs, nouns and adjectives. But, for me, the attraction of the web has always been the ability to show pictures (not to mention audio and video too). So liven up your blog with some interesting photos, drawings, cartoons, whatever.

Of course Willie Waw at Sailscape is the master of the visual blog with his magnificent photos of tall ships and Rhode Island seascapes. And Maria at Ferroever (Bridget Jones with a boat) is enlivening her entertaining tale of sailing the Eastern Med Yacht Rally with pictures of everybody from her fellow sailors to the lovely Turkish boys she meets, and everything from bucketfuls of goat heads to her spilt breakfast cereal. "Ferkin' crap shit pooh bums!"

Or if you're not sailing one week, then take some photos of the rest of the fleet and share them with us as Pat Byrne, commodore of the New Mexico Sailing Club, did in this series of posts showing his wife and others in a single-handed race and a long-distance race on the Desert Sea.

However, the prize for most effective use of graphics to describe sailboat racing must go to The Skips Blog whose author chronicles his J24 racing with ingenious diagrams and even uses weather charts like this one to explain his pre-race planning.

Be human
I'm not perfect. You're not perfect. Sure, tell us how you won that race, but it's often more interesting to read about your screw-ups and how you lost that regatta. Carol Anne from Five O' Clock Somewhere wasn't afraid to tell us about how a disastrous race one weekend ended up with a visit to the hospital emergency room. And Orkin Soyer, a Turkish match racer living in Switzerland shared with us his tough loss against top class competition in Rimini.

Most boating bloggers realize that they're writing for a niche audience and manage to stick to the nautical theme. But occasionally it's good to show us another side of your life as when Canadian Ckayaker tells us about his other passion for playing flamenco guitar or when Litoralis shows us how his baby daughter is learning how to pump the mainsheet.

Be sociable
One of the things that I most enjoy about this whole blogging-about-sailing experience is the way in which we seem to be building a community of folk from all over the world who take an interest in each other's sailing lives and provide feedback, advice and encouragement to each other via the comments sections in our blogs. So if you want to be an effective sailing blogger then try to encourage that interaction. Leave comments on posts that you find interesting or challenging or just plain wrong. Encourage others to do so on your blog.

Be interesting
Of course everything you write is going to be interesting to other boaters, right? Well, maybe not if all you ever write about is how you sailed the same boat around the same buoys with the same people every Wednesday evening. Try and find a new angle for every post you write. If you're not sailing yourself then write about someone who is, as when Litoralis told us about these Optimist sailors training in the winter in New England.

Mix it up - have some variety in your posts. For example, Edward from EVK4 Bloglet told us about the day he was faced with a mutiny and Strathy from We Live On a Boat wrote about weekenders.

Try and use humor such as when David Bethancourt told us How To Clean Your Toilet or when Michael Bradley shared some thoughts, from a kayaker's perspective, on Getting Older.

But above all, as
one of the most inventive and imaginative of all boating bloggers, Derrick Mayoleth from Blog, told us in this Steve Martin quote...

"You know when you're telling these little stories?
Here's a good idea: have a point.
It makes it so much more interesting for the listener!"

Couldn't have put it better myself.


Zen said...

Wow! I'm famous and did not even know it, hahahaha.

what!!! people do this for money !!!?

Excellent post for us newbie blogers or is that blognewts

Have a safe holiday...

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post tillerman...

Anonymous said...

I think you did a great job of tying the wider project to your niche subject. Most of the blogging tips were for wide audiences. There were just a few of us who talked to specific audiences.

Pat said...

I'm glad my blog is targeted at a relatively narrow audience and that I'm not in it for money. Somehow, that would really take the fun out of it.
Pat Byrnes

Tim Coleman said...

Ah! Some good tips to take note of.

Glad for the mention, pleased it was a good read.


Fred said...

Great article and inspiration for me "new kid at the blog". Working hard on my english language skills to keep you entertained.
A loud applause for this speech of our commodore!

Strathy said...

Thanks Tillerman,

I hope that people realize that 'weekenders' would also fall under the humour catagory.

Nice work as usual...


Fuff said...

LOL Tillerman, I hadn't this until now! Thanks Technorati and Tillerman!

Fuff said...

That was sposed to say 'I hadn't seen this until now'

Christy ~ Central Air said...

Very good advice, Tillerman!

Note to self: blog more!

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