[Marxism] Helpful tips on setting up blog, citing Juan Cole's experience

Ralph Johansen michele at maui.net
Fri Mar 18 16:13:03 MST 2005


<Juan Cole is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of
Michigan.  Until the invasion of Iraq, hardly anyone had heard of him. 
He started a website that looks like a blog site.  It deals with Iraq
and the Middle East. 
Word began to spread.  Here is a man who can read Arabic.  He is a
tenured professor, so cannot be fired.  He keeps people informed about
things that people who don't read Arabic cannot discover easily. 
Reporters, not knowing Arabic, began coming to his site.  Then
columnists did.  Then decision-makers in Washington did, especially
those who have been pushed out of the loop.   Then the talk show
producers came. 
Juan Cole is today one of the acknowledged experts in Middle Eastern
studies.  His site is not peer-reviewed. His academic peers are unknown
to the general public. 
With a simple technology, Juan Cole stepped out of the pack.  But blogs
are even easier to set up than a website is.  A blog would look just
like Cole's site.  They have longer ID names.  Instead of
www.juancole.com, his address would be www.juancole.blogspot.com.  But
as far as search engines are concerned, this would not matter.>


Daily Reckoning


Gary North & The Daily Reckoning <RealityC at prioritymailer.net>

Clip

There is a new technology that can make people irreplaceable.  Most of 
the people who are using this technology are unaware of its potential 
for making them irreplaceable.  I am here to show you its remarkable 
potential.

ENTER THE BLOG

A personal website gives its creator some added visibility.  But setting 
up a website is no easy task. Millions of people have done it, but you 
probably haven't.

Now, you don't have to.  You can set up a blog.

The word "blog" stands for Web log.  A blog can be a nice-looking Web 
page that offers most of what a stand- alone website does.

They are usually free to set up.  They don't require too much work.  
They can be reasonably sophisticated to look at.  You don't need to know 
sophisticated HTML coding, although a few bits of HTML are useful.

The software in most cases is free.  It's on the blog site.  You compose 
on-line.  You post whatever you have written when you think it's ready.

You are given a choice of Web page templates or designs to choose from.  
In less than two hours, you can start posting your ideas for all the 
world to see.

All the world won't see it.  I have heard that there is a new blog 
coming on line every five seconds.  There is a lot of competition.

But some of the world can see it, and may see it, if you incorporate 
information about your site in your communications.

One outfit that offers a free blog site is Blogspot. It is owned by 
Google.  It's not going to go away.

Google is making money by posting small ads on websites.  I have a 
friend who has adapted this strategy for a nice little business.  He 
posts public domain books on-line.  Google's ad engine posts little ads 
on these pages.  His company's share of the joint revenue is $250,000.  
A month.  That is up ten times in one year.

clip

THE JUAN COLE STORY

Juan Cole is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of 
Michigan.  Until the invasion of Iraq, hardly anyone had heard of him.  
He started a website that looks like a blog site.  It deals with Iraq 
and the Middle East.

Word began to spread.  Here is a man who can read Arabic.  He is a 
tenured professor, so cannot be fired.  He keeps people informed about 
things that people who don't read Arabic cannot discover easily.

Reporters, not knowing Arabic, began coming to his site.  Then 
columnists did.  Then decision-makers in Washington did, especially 
those who have been pushed out of the loop.   Then the talk show 
producers came.

Juan Cole is today one of the acknowledged experts in Middle Eastern 
studies.  His site is not peer-reviewed. His academic peers are unknown 
to the general public.

With a simple technology, Juan Cole stepped out of the pack.  But blogs 
are even easier to set up than a website is.  A blog would look just 
like Cole's site.  They have longer ID names.  Instead of 
www.juancole.com, his address would be www.juancole.blogspot.com.  But 
as far as search engines are concerned, this would not matter.

What follows is a blog created by a young man who is a libertarian.  He 
asked me some advice, which I gave.  He resisted at first, then took 
it.  I told him this:

A large picture at the top reduces download time. Readability is the 
crucial factor initially. The best colors are black print on a white 
background.

These are very simple suggestions.  Blogspot offers free site templates 
with multi-colored backgrounds.  The first one it offers is the best one 
for readability.

Take a look at his site.  Remember:

It is free to him -- time only. It comes with a pre-set template. It is 
visible to search engines. It is on-line 24x7. He can update it at any 
time. It offers permanent URL links on the side.

http://www.wesleyfogel.blogspot.com/

I would change only one thing.  The template he uses allows him to add 
an identification line or short paragraph right under the title.  I 
suggest that a blogger identify his site's #1 benefit to the readers he 
wants to attract. Make this ID 25 words or fewer (if possible).

What's on your mind?  Would you like to publish your two cents' worth?  
It won't cost you two cents.  It will just cost you time.

Where can you get information?  If yours is a blog site designed to 
persuade people that you're an expert, this list of sources would 
include trade magazines, other websites, e-letters, and newsletters.  It 
might include other blog sites.  It should also include the following.


GOOGLE'S NEW SERVICE

Recently, Google added a tremendous service on its news site.  Here is 
its news site:

http://news.google.com

You can access it instantly if you have installed the Google Tool Bar, 
which I find indispensable.  Download it here:

http://toolbar.google.com

Here's the deal.  You can now re-configure the news site to assemble 
daily articles for you on any topic you like.

This is an information/research tool of enormous importance.  I dropped 
the old Google News topics that I had never wanted and added seven new 
ones:

interest rates consumer debt trade deficit dollar Social Security day 
care child care

These were not pre-selected options.  I named them. The page instantly 
reformatted when I saved these categories.

I can click on any of my new topics on the left side of the screen.  I 
usually have immediate access to hundreds of newspaper article links per 
topic.

Google News puts a few of these stories' summaries on- screen, but most 
of the stories are hidden.  You can click a category ID on the left-hand 
side of the screen to access all of them.  You can also click the 
"related" stories link at the end of each on-screen story to get 
additional versions of this story.  Sometimes an alternative version is 
slightly different: more or less information.

I now have my own personally configured newspaper.  It feeds me the 
types of news stories that interests me. Imitate me.  Get set up on 
Google News today.

Warning: Google News puts a cookie on your hard drive to remember your 
settings.  If you delete this cookie, the screen will revert to 
"default." So, if you use cookie-deleting software, such as Empty Temp 
(which I recommend), erase of all cookies.  Then go to Google News.  Set 
up your categories.  Save the configuration.  Then leave Google News's 
site.  Immediately return.  Now go to your cookie-removal software.  You 
will see this in the list of cookies: www.news.google.com. Move it to 
"Items that should not be deleted" or the equivalent. If you don't have 
cookie-deleting software, download Empty Temp.

http://www.danish-shareware.dk/soft/emptemp


PUTTING THIS NEWS SERVICE TO PRODUCTIVE USE

If you monitor a narrow topic, and you come across a story that you 
think has wider implications beyond your industry or field of interest, 
send me the link:

garynorth at garynorth.com

I can then assess its importance for my readers.  If a dozen of you 
start doing this, you will increase the usefulness of my reports for 
everyone, including yourself.

You can set up categories useful to your blog.  Most of your blog's 
readers won't find out about this or use it.

Start tracking news articles of special interest to you.  Start saving 
them to your hard disk, where Copernic Desktop Search or some other 
desktop search engine can retrieve them.  Don't rely on "Favorites."  
Articles disappear too often.  Get them onto your hard disk where your 
desktop search engine can find them.

If you pick topics related to your business, you will have the basics 
for creating a blog.

You could create a blog page based on one or two narrowly focused 
topics.  Then you summarize what is happening.  Use Juan Cole's website 
as a model.

You can comment on the material you read.  Extract summaries, the way I 
do.  (Cut & paste).  You can include URLs to the articles if you want 
to.  (Warning: they die early.  Also, some newspaper sites require the 
reader to register to see the article whose link you posted.  The reader 
will click your site, which had not been registered, and it will take 
him to the registration site.  Annoying.)

If you're thinking, "Nobody will visit my site," you're wrong.  If you 
make things easier to learn about for specific readers, some of them 
will come over and over. The more frequently you update your blog, the 
more often they will come.


YOUR BOSS WILL COME

If your blog is about your company, your boss will come.  If your blog 
makes things easier for the customer to get up and running with a 
product he bought from your company, your boss will hear about this.

If you're a salesman, put your blog address on your business card.

If you're an engineer who never sees the buyer, create a blog for 
engineers in the customer's company, who never see their front office, 
either.  Word will filter up: "This outfit provides after-sale 
service."  But it's you, not your outfit, who does this.

I know of no better way to get off the dreaded list of "last hired, 
first fired."

If your blog site is a benefit to your company, and you can prove that 
you write and post your updates on your own time, you have separated 
yourself from the replaceable employees.

Why would your boss fire you?  You will take your blog and your readers 
with you.  He knows what your next blog will say:

Recently, I was laid off by XYZ Widgets.  I am now in the market for a 
new employer.

Two days later, they will read:

I am happy to announce that ABC Widgets has just hired me.  I will be 
providing the same free service for the ABC Widgets product line that I 
have been providing for three years for XYZ Widgets.

If you have just been fired, and you have a blog site with two or three 
years of posts on-line, and readers to match, you have your Rolodex.  
That's better than an MBA degree.  You also have your unique selling 
proposition
(USP) for your next employer.  When he hires you, he is hiring your 
Rolodex.

Juan Cole isn't going to be fired by the University of Michigan.  But 
you can bet that other big-name universities are salivating at the 
prospect.

Cole has done an end run around the academic publish- or-perish system.  
He has published on his own forum -- no peer-review.  Yet the high 
quality of his information is obvious.  Any university that hires him 
will make major inroads into the highest-level public forums.  Harvard 
likes its faculty members to be on the Lehrer Report.  Few of them ever 
make it.  Juan Cole will be there until peace in the Middle East is 
achieved, i.e., until he dies or gets tired of being on TV.

What Cole has done on a national stage, you can do in your niche of the 
industry you're in.


LOTS OF BLOG SOFTWARE AND SITES

Stand-alone blogging software for your own personal website is 
notoriously difficult to install.  You must first get your domain name.  
Then sign up with a Web hosting service.  Then you must somehow install 
the software on your new site.  You may have to hire a tech wizard to do 
the installation for you.  I recommend against this, at least until you 
have a lot more experience.  Just sign up with a blog site.

Most blog sites are free.  A few aren't.

You can create a free or cheap blog page, learn the tricks, and create 
your own website later.  Then direct your blog site's visitors to your 
new website.

Lock in your website's name as soon as you come up with a short one that 
people may actually recall.  This may take you a couple of days to come 
up with.  Your first choice is probably a poor choice, unless it's your 
name. Registration will cost you under $9/year.  Here's an inexpensive 
place to do this.
The key to your success on-line is not your mastery of sophisticated 
software.  The key is whether you've got something to write that's worth 
reading.  if you do, word will spread.  I'll help you spread it.

Hold your domain name in reserve.  You can activate it later, dirt cheap 
(free for six months, $5/month thereafter), here:

http://www.1and1.com

Don't do sign up with 1and1 until you have a few months' experience with 
blogging.  Build up your skills and your audience first.

Here is a blog product I really like.  It's a piece of free downloadable 
software that lets you create your blog site on your computer.  Then you 
upload today's edition to the company's website for free.  You pay under 
$40/year for technical support and upgrades.  If you decide you don't 
need upgrades, you don't have to pay the $40.

http://radio.userland.com

I like this approach because I prefer to do my work off-line.  It's more 
comfortable for me.  If I ever set up a blog (and I'm thinking about 
several), this product lets me put all of them in one directory.

Blogging is so cheap that it doesn't much matter which service you use.  
Go for convenience, ease of use, and your ability to choose from a 
selection of type fonts and sizes. I like smaller print with tighter 
spacing between lines.

I like WYSIWYG screens: "What you see is what you get."  When you 
compose a page, you want to know before you post it on-line what it will 
look like.  The easier it is to go back and forth between your 
composition/editing screen and your final screen, the better.  I don't 
like Blogspot for this reason.  It's a bit of a hassle.

Be sure you view the page in the normal resolution screen setting.  
About 60% of users set their screens to
1024 x 768 pixels.

I don't use this setting.  I like larger type and fewer pixels: 800 x 
600.  My age may have something to do with this.  The older your 
targeted audience, the larger the type should appear.

What you see may not be what they get, if your pixel setting on your 
screen is set at one pixel resolution, but your readers' settings are 
different.  Keep this in mind when you choose the font size, if your 
template allows this.  If your readers are older, but they use an 800 
setting, choose a larger font to compensate for shrinkage.

clip

WHAT A SITE SHOULD HAVE

You need an easy-to-read main section, where you post your ideas.

You may post side links to other sites, if you don't mind losing your 
readers.  But their time is valuable. They may not come back to your 
site today.  Drudge uses this approach, but he got there early.  His 
site is a portal site.  Yours should be all about your field of 
interest: narrowcasting.

I like links in the text of my essays to documents on things I'm 
commenting on.  Readers want verification.

Links on the right-hand side that take the reader to your most recent 
postings are a good idea.  Choose your titles carefully before you post 
them.  You want them to attract attention in your list of old articles.

Archives are basic.  Include them.  These are usually by month and 
year.  But don't expect more than 1% of readers to use them unless you 
post lots of information of permanent value.  But archives prove that 
you have been around a long time.  This makes your site more credible.

I like some use strategic of bold facing, underlining, and italics.  
These help the reader skim over less important stuff and come to 
whatever you indicate is important.  If the editing software doesn't 
offer all three, it's not ideal.

An on-site calendar is superfluous.  It takes up space. Blog software 
usually includes a calendar as an option. Your blog posting dates are 
highlighted.  But who cares when you posted something?  People want your 
information. Don't waste screen space on a calendar.


GETTING STARTED

All it takes is time.  You can try Blogspot.  If you like it, stick with 
it.

Download radio.user for free for 30 days.  Maybe you'll like it better.

You can play around with the software on the weekend. What has the 
look-and-feel that you like for blog creation? What gives you the most 
creativity in terms of what you want your site to look like?

Start simple.  Get used to the software.  Get used to locating things to 
comment on.

You must answer these questions first:

What is my #1 personal goal for my site?

What can I offer to a specific type of reader to help me attain my goal 
with my site?

How can I save my readers time?

How can I save them money?

How can I amuse them?

How can I keep them coming back?

Where can I locate sources of ideas or information to comment on?

What can I add of real value to this public information?

This may scare you off.  Don't be intimidated.  You have specialized 
knowledge that others want.  You have wisdom from years of doing your 
routine.  Others don't possess this.

You may only have one reader in mind: your boss.  If you write about 
things of interest to your boss under the camouflage of a site aimed at 
the public, this may attain your main goal.

If your goal is to become irreplaceable, a blog site may be all you need.

When your blog site is ready for prime time, and you think it would be 
of interest to some of my readers, send me a link to it.  If I think 
you're correct, I'll give it a plug.

It would be great to have a hundred blog sites put up by my readers, 
each site with a specialty, each making a unique contribution.  That's 
the division of labor.

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