This is my 400th post at Catbird Quilt Studio. It feels like this should be a profound moment in some way, but it’s not. In truth I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve written. A few of the posts here were re-blogs, though most were my original work. But I also contribute to the Our View From Iowa blog with Jim. We have 330 posts between us, some written by me and some by him and some by both of us. And before coming to WordPress, I contributed at a couple of other sites, totaling well north of 100 posts there. Let’s just guess there are something like 700 posts.
Rather than worrying about how many I’ve written, it might be better to consider what I’ve learned through the process. Below are some thoughts about writing and reading blogs (and posts elsewhere, such as Facebook,) and about relationships in our digital world.
Respect your readers. Assume they are intelligent and capable, and write to that level.
Offer something of value; make it worth the readers’ time. A story, a tutorial, helpful pointers on process, or just a great photo can make a reader glad they clicked in.
Edit. Edit for clarity, basic grammar, and spelling. Even with editing, mistakes happen. Fix them when you see them.
Don’t post when angry. Rants can be fun to write and read, but rants also can cause damage. Write when angry, perhaps, but re-read, edit, and post (or not) after you’ve calmed down.
Welcome comments and questions. Don’t just invite them, also respond to them. It’s a small way to acknowledge readers’ time and effort. I prefer to respond on the blog. I think it is more inclusive for all readers that way.
Give credit. Use links, credit photos, provide references and original sources. It’s not hard, and it’s the right thing to do.
Give the writer the benefit of the doubt. This includes both the person who originally posted as well as those who comment.
Disagree respectfully. Don’t call names, of the individual or whatever affiliation they seem to represent. If you’re disagreeing on a matter of fact, cite sources. If it is a matter of opinion, remember we’re all entitled to our own. Walking away often is a good strategy, regardless of the point of disagreement.
Not everyone comes from your background. The online world includes all kinds, from all places. Maybe she calls it a “cushion” when really it is a “throw pillow.” Who cares?
Use your time wisely. Reading blogs is not an adequate substitute for real life. DO stuff, too. If you are a quilter, go quilt. If you have a spouse or other family or friends, talk to them. If you love to bake, bake something. Don’t just read baking blogs and imagine what great things you could make.
ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS IN OUR DIGITAL WORLD
Our online connections include blogging, Facebook and other social media sites, and basic email with people we’ve known for decades. I’ll preface this by saying I’ve had enormously rewarding personal experiences online, as well as deeply disappointing, even upsetting ones. Jim and I have even traveled halfway across the country to meet multiple people we’ve known online. Sometimes that has gone great (Hi Jim F! Hi Ben!) and other times less so.
A lot has been written about how difficult it is to convey meaning in words, without the larger context of intonation and facial expression. Some people always sound like jerks in writing. It can be hard to separate those who actually are jerks from those who are not. This is where it helps to know someone in a broader way.
Because we are working with limited information when dealing with people online, all of the above writing and reading pointers can help. Here are a couple more thoughts.
People disappear. Bloggers quit blogging, sisters slam doors, people you thought were dear friends walk away. After an attempt or two to communicate, let them go.
RPT is key. RPT stands for “Real People Time.” It’s the term Jim and I use for opportunities to socialize in person with others. While it’s tempting to hole up here by ourselves, we always feel better when we have a little RPT.
Blogging, in general, has been wonderful for me. I’ve made friends I would never have made without it. I’ve shared my quilting with thousands more than would have seen it otherwise. I’ve researched plants and animals and history. I’ve sharpened my technical writing skills with tutorials. This may be my 400th post or my 700th post, depending on how you count. The enrichment in my life has been infinite.
Thank you for reading this post. If you stop by regularly, please know I appreciate it.