Four solid reasons to start a blog: audience, content, skill and a feel for business

A couple of months ago I got together with Steve Sutherland, one of my friends in Taipei, who was wondering if he should start a blog or not. If you remember from earlier posts, he runs the Education Agents website, AgentsChat dot com. He was thinking about installing the WordPress software on a separate domain, and starting a blog about the World of Education Services. So should he run a blog? That got me to thinking: should he?

I can outline four reasons (and two caveats) why I think he should consider starting blogging:

1. He has an audience: His community already has 1500 members and it is growing constantly. In the forum, there are ample opportunities for writing post like articles, and in fact, Steve has already done some writing in the forums. It’s quite clear that while forums are good for chatting, longer articles are often the backbone of a good community as they allow writers the space to expand their ideas, develop their content, and write top quality articles. With an audience already present, he’s got an easy start, and by integrating SMF with WordPress, he’d be able to take advantage of the strengths of both applications.

2. He has something to say: As you’ve seen, Steve is already well capable of writing good pieces that his audience would enjoy reading. I’ve spoken to Steve on many occasions, and I think he has a lot of incredible ideas about his industry that would easily find an very specific niche. In fact, I have a strong sense that with his insight into his industry, his blog would quickly establish itself as a top blog because of its first-mover chance. I amn’t aware of any blogs that would be competing for his space.

3. He has the technical skill to manage a blog: Learning WordPress can be a little daunting at times for new users, but in general the principles of managing a blog are similar to, and easier than, managing an online forum. By fine tuning the operation of the blog, you can be left with the primary task of just focusing on writing. He’s also familiar with many of the Internet resources that he would need to develop a blog properly.

4. He has the business skill to run it well: Many bloggers (myself included) started blogging without much concern for the business side of it. For the most successful ones, monetization almost came as an afterthought to the blog itself. This isn’t necessarily the best way to build a business. Steve’s got a rich experience, and knowledge of, running businesses, advertising, marketing, etc., all of which would serve him well to get started. Combined with an established audience, advertisers, and networks, he’d likely have a solid foundation for the blog to be successful in the long term.

So I believe that these four “Winds of Blogging” are all blowing now and it could be the perfect opportunity for him to start. But I also know he has reservations about blogging, especially on the commitment side; and the confidence side.

So, let’s deal with the confidence issue first. Most people, when confronted with the idea of ‘having’ to write, react in a similar way – with HORROR! And, rightly so.

Your words, ideas and organization are all going to be read by dozens, possibly hundreds of readers, are you good enough? Is your writing good enough? Do you really have something to say? To which I have only one thing to say: blogging is pretty much an adventure… as such, you’re allowed the space to develop as a writer (hey, look at my posts a year ago, and you’ll see what I mean!).

Too often to new writers, the goal is to write the perfect piece of writing with the best organization and best content. Well, it isn’t going to happen any time soon. So quit worrying! Once you quite worrying about your writing, you’ll really begin to enjoy the process, the adventure of blogging.

To progress as a writer, and as a blogger, you DO have to make a commitment: with yourself, with your blog, and with your audience. What the nature of that commitment is can be totally up to you! If you want to post daily, then you can. If you want to post weekly, or even monthly, then you can. Obviously, you’ll experience different results whichever method you choose. But there’s no obligation to post on a daily basis. But like most skills, the more you practice, the better you will become.

So, in short, to people who are considering blogging, and can’t decide. Perhaps this post will help to clarify what it is that is holding you back. For me, though, it was a nexus of different things that helped to get me posting regularly: I already had a blog and a hankering to write something, I also had a strong motivation in my content area, then I discovered BlogDesk, and later Payperpost. Somehow all of this coalesced last year, when my daily posting schedule came about.

What helped you to get started blogging? When did it happen? Share with us in our comments section below.

Buzz: Michael Turton’s – The View From Taiwan


The winner from last week’s competition about TaiChung is Michael Turton who guessed correctly that I was taking the picture from the 25th floor of the Splendor Hotel in Taichung. We actually stayed in the more affordable rooms on the other side of the main entrance, but we both like the hotel and the rooms quite a lot, especially for its location.

The competition itself attracted a bunch of entries, with floors ranging from 25th to 70th and even 80th floor! One of the nice points about Taichung though is that it isn’t really a high-rise city yet, so many of the guesses were overly ambitious! Sorry, guys! When we came back from Taichung, the north of the island was plunged into the Taiwanese equivalent of the Big Freeze, the BIG CHILL. Temperatures in Tamsui where we live have plunged from pleasant mid-teens to 6~8C in the last few days.

Oh, well. I just hope that Michael forgives any splling mstakes as my frozen finggers strugggle over the keyboarrd.

The View From Taiwan


The blog is simply the view of one Michael Turton who has lived in Taiwan for many years. It was difficult to find much biographical information about Michael himself. But I did find a picture of him! So, if you see him on the streets of Taichung, say hello from Kenneth!


The primary blog that he runs is The View From Taiwan supplemented by other HTML pages that can be found on his own website, named The View Blog is full of posts that explore life in Taiwan: Politics, Society, History, Economics, etc. His posts are always well informed, well-written, and interesting reading for those of you interested in Taiwan in many ways. I also love the way his posts always contain large numbers of photos: he has quite an eye for catching simple things and focusing on them in such a way that they becoming interesting – his blog, Flickr, and HTML sites are all replete with photos taken with one of his three cameras. Also, the sidebar is a tremendous resource of blogs and photoblogs, most of which are related to Taiwan. It’s quite a wonderful resource.

The Challenge: Blogger’s limitations

The challenge that Michael faces is mostly Blogger itself. Blogger’s interface, presentation and theme limitations all impede the appearance of an otherwise excellent blog. While the themes aren’t particularly ugly in Blogger/Blogspot, out in the world of self-hosted blogs the options for improving presentation are just THAT much greater. There are plugins and themes that can turn his blog into a full CMS system or even simply the unruly first page. But given the size and depth of his blog, migration to a non-Blogger system would likely prove to be a HUGE headache in itself.

I will instead offer three suggestions that Michael can use if he wishes:

total space1. Usability: Trim the length and size of your first page on your blog. I saved the page to my desktop and was shocked by the size: it’s 8MB of files. Cut it down by at least 90% so that pages load for people who don’t have such speedy connections. Can you imagine how long the page would take to load on DialUp? So, you need to cut the number of posts to five longish posts or ten medium size posts (a rule of thumb!). I’ll lay odds that your page views are VERY limited possibly only 1.x or similar. In other words, the length of text of the first page is a huge turn off, and you provide little or no means by which people can click through to other pages.

2. Navigation: With so many posts on the front page, navigation, focus and depth become serious issues. Users can’t click on a single post title entry easily or obviously to read a post (I had to click on comments or links to get to a specific post). Navigation by mouse is clumsy even at the best of times, but today I have frozen fingers; and I find it really a burden to have to click and drag, or use the roller in the middle of the mouse, even clicking on the sidebar in the window means that scrolling isn’t smooth particularly and at times you miss important stuff as you skip quickly down the page. With so many posts on one page (is it 25?), it’s difficult for the reader to find the most important posts, the most popular posts, or the posts with most comments. In fact, it’s difficult to find out what the blogger thinks is important. In many ways, it resembles a street market in Taiwan – it takes time to wander through as you search for the fresh, the most delicious, the best value or the newest produce. But it doesn’t make shopping easy. There is a full-archive date by date; as well the archive is topically (and manually) organized. One of the archive links doesn’t seem to work. But a CMS or WordPress platform would make such management much simpler and more effective to the archive problem and help keep the archive uptodate.

3. Sidebar: The sidebar displays the same problem as the main posts column: too much, too disorganized (from a navigation point of view), and clicking on the shortcuts at the top (it works well) takes you to the sidebar area you want to go, but (BUT) there is no way to go back except by scrolling or hitting the back button. It would be much better to offer a separate page or pages with the same information and extract random sites for posting on the front page. With so much information on the sidebar, should he shorten his frontpage to five posts or even ten, then using a double sidebar on the right might be a good solution to the overhang!

Wonderful resource: needs an overhaul

Overall, Michael’s blog is a rip-roaring success with wonderful photos, detailed posts, and good writing. He’s cracked the hard part of blogging: the content. But his blog is in need of an overhaul: one that will improve the design, making his blogging easier and help his readers tremendously. At the very least, he should consider a new blogger theme, even if he doesn’t want to change the CMS he is using (Blogger), especially one that makes navigation easier for readers. And it’s been a privilege to write a review of his blog. Thanks, Michael. And when I’m in Taichung next time, I will look you up!

To my readers, if you are interested in knowing about Taiwan, reading about its culture or politics or you would like to come here to live or travel around the island, Michael’s website and blog both will provide you a lot of what you will need to know. And if he can’t, one of the blogs, forums, websites or resources he has linked to WILL likely have the answer you need! Now, my fingers are frozen. …

Addenda: I will add any missing information here.

10 Blogging Tools: Speed up your blogging with these tools – Qumana (part 1)

Blogging has gone crazy with the 70,000,000 plus blogs out there… But for a long time the tools for managing blogs were pretty basic. Now that’s no longer true. I’ve been compiling a list of the tools out there. I’ve tried most of them at one time or another with varying results. Blogging software is becoming increasingly common as people blog straight from their pcs via applications. On the scene there are now an increasing number of quality applications that you can use on Windows 98/XP/Vista. But first…

What conveniences do blogging applications have?

Well, quite a lot. You don’t need to fire up your browser, log in, click on write, save and post… it’s all available in one or two screens that you can just start, and enter the post. It works in ways most like a regular Word Processor package, and many of the buttons and tools look and behave much like that, too.

Moreover, you don’t need to log on the Internet to post, as you can save your posts offline, then login, post away and go offline again. Blogging Tools offer a lot of convenience for presenting your blog posts, provide spelling and photograph management, media integration, and so on… But not every application covers every point, so you may need to focus on one or two applications that cover most of your needs. So let’s take a look at #1…


First on our list is Qumana which is an interesting and flexible choice. It also offers bloggers an interesting alternative to Adsense. The interface is very similar to those who use WordPress as you can see:

qumana screenshot 0

All the basic elements are there, including adding tags, categories, pings, trackbacks, future posting, etc. You can also modify the text styles as well as the size. Additionally, it is supported on both Windows and Mac. You can also add notes and links to a pad for future reference, called ‘DropPad’ which you can use by clicking and dragging them to the pad area. This list is taken from their website:

* PC & Mac
* WYSIWYG editor, as easy as email
* Clean interface with easy-to-understand buttons
* Spell check with ‘as you type’ option
* Insert keyword ads in one click, with preview – make money easily
* Technorati tagging
* Customize ad design
* Source view option to edit HTML
* Save posts as drafts, or edit old posts, from the Blog Manager
* Easy image uploads and image alignment
* DropPad – gather links, text, and pictures by dragging them to a desktop pad
* Offline editing
* Multi-window editing
* Seamless posting and cross-posting
* Trackback & pinging

It also supports a large number of blogging platforms ncluding Blogger/Blogspot, Drupal, LiveJournal, MovableType, MSN Spaces, TypePad, and WordPress, amongst others.

Several Ways To Monetize Your Blog with Qumana

As mentioned, Qumana also has an integrated ad browser which bloggers can use to generate revenue. Qumana allows you to insert ads without leaving the blog application. You can also modify the ads within the browser, thus:

qumana screenshot 5

There are only a couple of things I don’t like about Qumana: it’s not easy to edit pictures visually; it’s not particularly media friendly apart from pictures (though there is an alternate application for that), and it seems difficult to ad non-qumana ads to your blog posts… If you are not interested in generating revenue from your blog via such in-text ads, or you use a separate service like Adsense, then this product may not be what you are looking for. If you’re interested in using Qumana ads, but have a preferred blogging tool, then you can try their Firefox and IE tools.

Next week we’ll be taking a look at #2 in our series… so till then.