Blogging Forms

One of the aspects of "BloggingFail" [1] during the most recent technology/new media bubble, is the emergence of "blog post formulas," which are basic post formats that people use to provide structure to a post, and produce content in a way that's more readable for casual visitors, and better for search engines.

Interestingly, not all of these formats are as bad as the BlogFail that they helped create, and I've been interested in collecting/creating a few new and different formats for blog posts. This is a collection of those post templates.

The "N Things Post"

This is big, and very mainstream we see this a lot as filler, and I think it grows out of the kinds of articles you see on news stands. Basically the gimmick (and I think it works) is that it promises a post that will be easy to read, provide information in clear ways, and won't encumber a collection of information with complicated rhetoric.

It works, there was a long time when digg was filled with "N Things posts" of dubious merit. Having said that, it's a great format for presenting some kinds of information.

Tip: While we're at it, it helps if the N is a prime number (eg. 5, 7, or 11 make good Ns for N Things Posts)

The RedMonk Interview

This is mostly Stephen O'Grady's invention, though I've seen it elsewhere. The basic idea is that you ask yourself a bunch of questions and then answer them yourself.

While this might sound contrite by my description, the posts that result are often quite successful at communicating information. In a sort of not-very-subtle way, you're able to frame your discussion by communicating to your reader what questions you think are the most important. It again wins by stripping away potentially complex and linear rhetoric, and lets you sort of jumpstart the conversation that inevitably follows.

The Synthetic Review

I've started doing this more, and it's a form I've totally yanked from Academic journals and other similar sorts of outlets. Basically, you take two or three articles--potentially related, sometimes not--put links to them at the top of the post and then respond to each post and to the juxtaposition created by putting the links together in one post.

The questions I (try to) ask myself are both "what do I think of each of these articles," and "what would these articles say about each other."

The Pattern/Tutorial

This is the "here's how to do something" post. We see this in a lot of genres, from knitting, to technology, to cooking and back again. These posts tend to be both extremely popular and successful, but they are also quite useful to readers, new and old.

When I got into blogging, we were much closer to the "journal" end of the spectrum (as a community), but I think the transition to being about providing/creating value is something that's really emerged in blogging in the last ten years, in part because of the prevalence of a class of posts like this. So there you have it.

[1]This is, in my estimation, what happened as a result of the hype around "new media," "social media," and "search engine optimization," that resulted in an explosion in the number of blogs between 2006 and 2009. Blogs which are mostly designed to generate advertising revenue, rather than stimulate useful conversation. This isn't to say that there's nothing good out there, but I think we've all come across blogs that fall into this category, and it's always apparent. In my weaker moments, I call it the ProBlogger phenomena.
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