How to use a blog for publishing scientific research: A training guide part 1


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The African Commons Project ran a two-day training workshop with the Academy of Science of South Africa in August 2009. We set up a basic Wordpress blog for them, and then led through intensive training on how to use the platform and the basics of blogging: from content to marketing.

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  • CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is where it all began in March 1989.
  • A screen shot of Tim Berners-Lee's original WorldWideWeb browser. It has taken a long time for technology to catch up with Berners-Lee's original vision. The first ever web browser was also an editor, making the web an interactive medium , the problem was that it only ran on the NeXTStep operating system. With recent phenomena like blogs and wikis, the web is beginning to develop the kind of collaborative nature that its inventor envisaged from the start.
  • TECH: ISP, HTML, taught themselves HTML Few were publishers. CONTENT: Justin Hall is first personal blogger, started in 1994. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays CURATORS Started when early web users started compiling a list of "other sites like this”. By beginning of 1999 there were 23 known 'page of only weblogs’ known. The original weblogs were link-driven sites.
  • July 1999 when Pitas, the first free build-your-own-weblog tool launched -> explosion Content Management System to enable you to publish on the internet, knowing very little or no html. Point and click.
  • CONTENT: More than just a diary. It can be used in various ways for content purposes…
  • Bloggers -- often experts in their field -- find exciting new peer-reviewed research they'd like to share. They write thoughtful posts about the research for their blogs. Bloggers register with us and use a simple one-line form to create a snippet of code to place in their posts. This snippet not only notifies our site about their post, it also creates a properly formatted research citation for their blog. Our software automatically scans registered blogs for posts containing our code snippet. When it finds them, it indexes them and displays them on our front page -- thousands of posts from hundreds of blogs, in one convenient place, organized by topic. Peer reviewed on the site by the community
  • - 4 mil readers from 21 st may to 20 june 09 - More ‘news’ articles, style is more newsy. POPULARITY
  • Peas on Toast: the life of a girl in Jozi, works in marketing space. Published a book based on her blog and it won her a job in a very high powered tech company. Emotional, her life, ups and downs… but who cares?
  • This will give you a good understanding of what people are writing about, plugs you into a community, gives you content to respond to, gives you ideas on what the hot topics are. What NOT to write about. An rss feed is: is the mechanism through which you can create a newsreader RSS allows you to syndicate content. hey benefit readers who want to subscribe to timely updates from favored websites or to aggregate feeds from many sites into one place.
  • (One topic per post!) Mind map/takes notes on the key points you want to make Research: add authority – quote, interview someone, Readers response: ask a question, ask for feedback, ask a question BEFORE you write a blog post, and then incorporate the answers in your blog. e.g. and show example of comic
  • Length: Generally people say go for a short post – attention span of reader (readers stay on blog post for 96 secs). But there is also a school of thought that advocates for longer posts, what they call ‘Pillar Posts’ – more thought out and structured. The nice things about these posts is you can really make a contribution to the information that is put out on the internet, and these posts get picked up a re-blogged – which in turn helps pushing people to your blog. I think a mix of the 2 is good. IF you go for a long post, then… Include subheadings in your post to break the info up – makes it easier for people to scan the post. If the post is too long, look at breaking it in to parts. Links: think of these as end/footnotes! Helps to keep your post succinct, while substantiating your ideas and if the reader wants to explore more, they can take it upon themselves to click and take a look. Headlines: Think of newspaper headlines!
  • You can build it but will people come? Put your blog's URL in your email signature or your business card, put a big link on your website, link to it in your newsletter or journals, get related blogs to put you on their blog roll and spread the word. Visuals: Affects loading of the page – the bigger the visual the slower the page loads. Try to resize the image before you upload it to your blog post.
  • Article: A landmark resolution was passed after years of debate at the  61st World Health Assembly at the World Health Organisation that is at logger heads with a new act called the IPR Act. The IPR Act requires universities and other publicly funded research organisations to secure intellectual property rights and patent as much research as possible, frowning upon open innovation and open source. The WHO, on the other hand promotes the idea of a collaborative world public health regime that uses patenting, but in a responsible way, and combines this with support for a number of open approaches to the shared dissemination of public health research.
  • Article: Research published proving that Calypso is most popular band in Brazil, and that their success came from the fact that they sell their CDs on the side of the road. Instead of a standard Rs15, they sell for Rs1.
  • Give the blogs enough time on the front page – at least 24 hours. Editorial calendar A wiki or shared documentation space? A board in the meeting room?
  • How to use a blog for publishing scientific research: A training guide part 1

    1. 1. Welcome to the world of Blogging! ASSAF blog training Day 1: 13 August
    2. 2. Introduction to Blogs What are blogs? Why and how should we use one?
    3. 3. Blogging Blogging in Plain English Video by: Lee LeFever,
    4. 4. Blogs in Plain English Key points… YOU = reporter + publisher WHERE YOU CAN share your unique perspectives With your OWN audience Blogs enable two-way conversations Blogs are EASY to use…
    5. 5. 2 main features of a blog: <ul><li>TECHNOLOGY </li></ul><ul><li>CONTENT </li></ul><ul><li>Here’s a contextual understanding… </li></ul>
    6. 6. So what’s the big deal? Read / Write <ul><li>Sir Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1990. </li></ul><ul><li>The proposal was based on how to transfer information over the internet, using a point-and-click system. </li></ul>Read / Write
    7. 7. Tim Berners Lee’s Web
    8. 8. It started with… READ ONLY
    9. 9. HTML
    10. 10. And then it became… READ-WRITE
    11. 11. READ-WRITE
    12. 12. Types of blogs… A blog (a contraction of the term &quot; weblog ”) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries that provide commentary or news on a particular subject ; others function as more personal online diaries . A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, webpages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. - ‘Blog’ on Wikipedia
    13. 13. Types of blogs… (content) <ul><li>Personal blog </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate blog (organisational) </li></ul><ul><li>By genre </li></ul><ul><li>By media type </li></ul><ul><li>By device </li></ul>“… that provide commentary or news on a particular subject ; others function as more personal online diaries .”
    14. 14. Types of blogs… (bloggers) “… maintained by an individual” Collaborative blogs: many authors around a single theme.
    15. 15. Applications on the WWW…
    16. 16. A site WITH A BLOG
    17. 17. A site WITH A BLOG
    18. 18. Blog AS A WEBSITE
    19. 19. Blogging within a community
    20. 20. Blogging within a community
    21. 21. Blogging within a community
    22. 22. The good, the bad and the ugly…
    23. 23. Some ‘good’ examples… Popularity / Readers Collaborative blog Internet pop culture Short articles, interesting topics, lots of multimedia Rated one of the most viewed blogs in the world S.A. sports blog, also collaborative Ranked #1 on Amatomu +4million visitors in 1 month alone, from 209 countries A recent post has 489 comments!
    24. 24. Some ‘good’ examples… Industry specific thought leaders Eve Gray’s blog on Open Access Publishing. Regular posts providing news and insight into her field of expertise . The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a nonprofit organization working to making the world's scientific and medical literature a public resource. Blog has regular updates and breaking news on the latest scientific research in these fields.
    25. 25. Is it fair to point out the bad and ugly? Because my peas on toast might be your club sandwich…
    26. 26. So, just in case you’re not convinced…
    27. 27. Why Blog? <ul><li>Blogging facilitates conversations and creates relationships: </li></ul><ul><li>Publish research findings that would be beneficial to the general public </li></ul><ul><li>Record and archive of project progress from start to finish </li></ul><ul><li>Gives a personal, ‘insiders’ view on the projects as they are rolled out: the successes and challenges, highs and lows </li></ul><ul><li>Information exchange: plugging in to a community </li></ul><ul><li>Allows you to garner internal and external support for projects </li></ul><ul><li>Helps with accountability to donors/funders/partners </li></ul>
    28. 28. And the stats say it all…
    29. 29. Intro to the Assaf blog & How to login
    30. 30. Front-end vs. Back-end
    31. 31. Front-end vs. Back-end <ul><li>The front-end of your website is what the public sees </li></ul>
    32. 32. Front-end vs. Back-end <ul><li>The back-end of your website is what makes your website work </li></ul><ul><li>The back-end … </li></ul><ul><li>manages the data on your site and </li></ul><ul><li>controls the look of your site </li></ul><ul><li>is not visible to the public </li></ul>
    33. 33. Front-end vs. Back-end Using the back-end, you can change: <ul><li>layout </li></ul><ul><li>colors </li></ul><ul><li>logo </li></ul><ul><li>banner </li></ul><ul><li>navigation </li></ul><ul><li>content / information </li></ul>
    34. 34. Navigating the Back-end
    35. 35. Navigating the Back-end Posts Create & Edit Blog Posts
    36. 36. Navigating the Back-end Media Add media (video, audio, pictures)
    37. 37. Navigating the Back-end Links Add and Edit links to websites to be listed under the blogroll
    38. 38. Navigating the Back-end Pages Create and Edit pages (static content)
    39. 39. Navigating the Back-end Comments Unapprove, delete, edit and reply to comments
    40. 40. How to Access the Back-end <ul><li>Login in at: </li></ul><ul><li>Username: use the name in your email address </li></ul><ul><li>for example: [email_address] username: Thabo </li></ul><ul><li>Password: changeme </li></ul>
    41. 41. Change Password <ul><li>Click on ‘Profile’ on the left-hand side </li></ul><ul><li>Scroll down and type your new password </li></ul><ul><li>Click ‘Update Profile’ to save your changes </li></ul>
    42. 42. Practical (15 minutes) <ul><li>Login to the back-end </li></ul><ul><li>Change your password </li></ul>
    43. 43. Strategic brainstorm what should the ASSAf blog achieve?
    44. 44. What do you (organisationally speaking) look like? … draw us a picture … What do you write about? Do you share information internally and/ or externally? How are you connected to one another? To your network? What do you do? Do your processes and methodologies differ from one anothers?
    45. 45. I am your stakeholder. Who am I? Eg: readers/ contributors/ users/ policy makers? … draw us a picture … Why do I need this info? How do I use your research? How do you talk to them? Am I a reader of your research and journals? Do I contribute to your research and journals? Do I promote your research? Am I involved in your research process?
    46. 46. A gazillion objectives? Try to choose ONE Find the most compelling reason for your blog
    47. 47. Hypothetically speaking, once you’re done, what will you have achieved? Will you have more members? Will you have more funding and project opportunities? Will you have more citations? Will you have extended your global/ local network? Will you have a closer, two-way relationship with your target audience?
    48. 48. Intro to pages The differences between pages & posts
    49. 49. What is a Post? <ul><li>Listed in reverse chronological order on home page </li></ul><ul><li>Also listed under Archives, Categories and Recent Posts </li></ul><ul><li>Displayed in the RSS feed </li></ul><ul><li>Can be assigned categories & tags </li></ul><ul><li>Are dynamic, updated regularly </li></ul><ul><li>Deliver current information </li></ul>
    50. 50. What is a Page? <ul><li>Consist of static content </li></ul><ul><li>Not listed by date </li></ul><ul><li>Displayed in tabs at top of blog </li></ul><ul><li>Do not use tags or categories </li></ul><ul><li>Are consistent, content rarely changes </li></ul><ul><li>Not displayed in RSS </li></ul><ul><li>Can be organised in hierarchies </li></ul>
    51. 51. How to Create a Page <ul><li>Click ‘Add New’ under the Pages tab </li></ul><ul><li>Add page title </li></ul><ul><li>Add page content </li></ul><ul><li>Spell check! </li></ul><ul><li>Save Draft </li></ul><ul><li>Preview the draft </li></ul><ul><li>Publish the page </li></ul>
    52. 52. Save Draft, Preview, Publish <ul><li>Save Draft allows you to save a copy of your work </li></ul><ul><li>Preview allows you to view what your page will look like </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- not viewable to the public </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>- uses temporary URL </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Publish makes your page public for everyone to see </li></ul>
    53. 53. How to Format a Page <ul><li>Spice up your page so it’s not too boring… </li></ul><ul><li>Add links </li></ul><ul><li>Bold & italicise text </li></ul><ul><li>Change text color </li></ul><ul><li>Add media </li></ul><ul><li>Change text size </li></ul><ul><li>but don’t go too crazy! </li></ul>
    54. 54. Practical (30 minutes) <ul><li>Add content to the ‘Projects’ page </li></ul><ul><li>Create your project page </li></ul>
    55. 55. Writing blog posts A step-by-step guide
    56. 56. Where to begin? <ul><li>Read blogs! </li></ul>
    57. 57. Next steps… <ul><li>Choose a topic: Remember your reader. </li></ul><ul><li>Make a point. Stick to the point. </li></ul><ul><li>Do your research / have some substantiating data, then link, link, link </li></ul><ul><li>Encourage your readers to respond… </li></ul>
    58. 58. Now to the writing… <ul><li>Typically an informal/personal tone </li></ul><ul><li>The first line / first paragraph is key! </li></ul><ul><li>Write a catchy headline / title </li></ul><ul><li>Length: 250-300 words or maybe… not??? </li></ul><ul><li>In some cases, uses bullet points and lists </li></ul><ul><li>Link, link, link! Remember to test the links. </li></ul><ul><li>Do a spelling and grammar check! Read through it One.. More… Time… </li></ul>
    59. 59. And after… <ul><li>A picture (or video) tells a thousand words… </li></ul><ul><li>Promote your blog </li></ul><ul><li>Respond to comments </li></ul><ul><li>How often do I post? The answer is: Quality above quantity! </li></ul>
    60. 60. Blog Case Studies 1. The sceptical chymist <ul><li>Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Short and to the point </li></ul><ul><li>‘ Newsy’ with some background info </li></ul><ul><li>Cons: </li></ul><ul><li>So few links! </li></ul><ul><li>Lets see where the blogger could have added more links to the benefit of the reader </li></ul>
    61. 61. Blog Case Studies 2. Gray Area <ul><li>Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>An interesting analysis that adds a different (local) view to a WHO announcement </li></ul><ul><li>Well researched and substantiated </li></ul><ul><li>Good headline </li></ul><ul><li>Cons: </li></ul><ul><li>Paragraphs and subheadings needed </li></ul>The plan for innovation, IPR and public health is adopted at the WHO. How can this be reconciled with the IPR Act?
    62. 62. Blog Case Studies 3. iCommons <ul><li>Pros: </li></ul><ul><li>Announcing new research findings of interest to readers </li></ul><ul><li>Well structured </li></ul><ul><li>Interesting multimedia </li></ul><ul><li>Fantastic conversation! (see the 12 comments!) </li></ul>Over the Top: The New (and Bigger) Cultural Industry in Brazil
    63. 63. Writing blog posts PRACTICAL (30 mins) Using the blog writing and style tips discussed here and drawing on our strategy discussion from earlier today, write your first blog entry. Write about interesting new research, a development in your project, an announcement, or an ASSAF or industry event that has taken place recently. Choose a topic that is easy to write about, focus more on the blogging process than necessarily the content as yet. This should be written in a Word document for now.
    64. 64. Key elements of a blogpost Uploading your post
    65. 65. Key Elements of a blogpost <ul><li>Format </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Spice up the look of your post </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use bold, italics, text size, media, linking, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Accessibility </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make your post accessible and easy to find </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use Tags and Categories </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Interactive </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allow readers to comment on your posts </li></ul></ul>
    66. 66. 1. Format
    67. 67. Formatting your blogpost <ul><li>Use bold, italics, text size etc., to… </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasize or highlight keywords or phrases </li></ul><ul><li>Identify subheadings </li></ul><ul><li>Use links to… </li></ul><ul><li>Put your story into the context of other stories, blog posts or comments that have been written on the same subject </li></ul><ul><li>Give weight to your opinion by backing it up with additional sources </li></ul><ul><ul><li>instead of citing all the sources, or the entire text of another source, you refer to a little bit of it and then link to the the rest </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Help to better define or explain a word or concept </li></ul>
    68. 68. 2. Accessibility
    69. 69. Making your blogpost accessible <ul><li>Categories and Tags… </li></ul><ul><li>Help to organise and share our info online </li></ul><ul><li>Make it easier to search and find topics of interest </li></ul><ul><li>Help with search engine optimisation </li></ul><ul><li>Help to structure and organise your blog for browsing </li></ul><ul><li>Categories vs. Tags </li></ul><ul><li>Categories are an organizational tool, while tags are for item identification </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Categories tell you where the post goes, tags tell you what’s in the post </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Posts can fall under one or two categories, but can have unlimited tags </li></ul>
    70. 70. What are categories? <ul><li>Categories categorize broad themes of your blog </li></ul><ul><li>Categories are best used to organise the major topics you write about </li></ul><ul><li>Categories are persistent </li></ul><ul><li>Categories always appear in the right sidebar </li></ul><ul><li>Generate an RSS feed for each category </li></ul><ul><ul><li>allows people follow a subset of your posts </li></ul></ul>
    71. 71. What are tags? <ul><li>Non-hierarchical keywords or terms assigned to a piece of information </li></ul><ul><li>This metadata helps describe an item and allows it to be found again by browsing or searching </li></ul><ul><li>Use tags to add specific keywords that elaborate </li></ul><ul><li>on the subject of the post </li></ul><ul><ul><li>like the names of people, product or companies mentioned in the post, or descriptive topic names </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>that aren't categories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(e.g. “medicine&quot;, “hospitals&quot; might be good tags for your ‘Health category’) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tags are chosen informally / personally by the item's creator </li></ul>
    72. 72. Using Categories & Tags together <ul><li>A small set of categories for browsing the key themes of your site </li></ul><ul><li>A nice tag cloud that helps users browser your site more like a topical search -- using words that your users would know and be looking for </li></ul>In the ideal scenario, to use tags and categories more effectively, you would have the following in place:
    73. 73. How to Add tags & categories to your post
    74. 74. 3. Interactive
    75. 75. The importance of Comments <ul><li>Blog comments are what make a blog interactive and social </li></ul><ul><li>People like to feel involved </li></ul><ul><ul><li>blog comments allow readers to join in on the conversation about a topic that interests them </li></ul></ul><ul><li>As the conversation builds, so will your relationship with your readers and so will your blog's popularity </li></ul><ul><li>The most popular blogs have a very interactive community who voice their opinions on posts frequently </li></ul>
    76. 76. Get the most out of Comments <ul><li>Encourage your readers to join in the discussion and leave comments </li></ul><ul><li>Respond promptly to the comments left by your readers to make them feel valued </li></ul><ul><li>Just as you don't like to be ignored when you address someone in person, you don't want to ignore your readers when they address you through a blog comment </li></ul>
    77. 77. Practical (30 minutes) <ul><li>Format your blog post </li></ul><ul><li>Add relevant tags and categories </li></ul>
    78. 78. Blog content So what do I write about? * Brainstorming session *
    79. 79. Some ideas on… Creating content <ul><li>Blogging should be fun! </li></ul><ul><li>Theme days e.g. Friday Fact box, Weird and Wacky Wednesday, A scientific thought for the week ahead (published on a Monday) </li></ul><ul><li>Characters e.g An agony aunt or uncle(s)… </li></ul><ul><li>Media e.g. a podcast or photo story </li></ul><ul><li>Curatorship/Resources e.g. 10 of the best, 5 tips, how to / toolkits </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews e.g. Profile Q&As or even an organisation spotlight </li></ul><ul><li>Competitions e.g. a blog duel ! </li></ul>
    80. 80. Some ideas on… Managing content <ul><li>An editorial calendar linked to an editorial meeting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>List the announcements/happenings that you know will need to be made on the blog e.g. projects ending, research to be published, event announcements or feedback. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Schedule who will be blogging and when for accountability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This can be flexible (e.g. if there is breaking news) but at least gives you a schedule to work to. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make a list of potential stories, even if you can’t get to them now, you at least have a list of ideas for those ‘dry months’ </li></ul></ul>
    81. 81. BLOG CONTENT Based on your projects - what do you think would work best for ASSAF???? Brainstorm