Tag Archives: blogs

Creative Blogging: Better content, more fun

CREATIVE BLOGGING: Better content, more fun

BLOGGING is a creative process by nature, but many bloggers tend to stick to formulas. Content that isn’t fresh and doesn’t look and feel inspired, tends to drag the audience on. This is not good for your blog as this method of blogging is the most definitive way of preventing your blog from growing and evolving. Like SEO, content creativity is critical to content quality and accessibility.

Creative BloggingThe blogging market is partly responsible for the tendency to treat a blog like a day job – going through routine processes. Creative blogging, which was the original basis of blogging, has become somewhat “industrial”, and the result has been a large number of blogs doing the same things simply because they’re the norm. The creative impetus is reduced, and that hasn’t done much for the blogs either – inflicting lower standards.

This very bad habit has done nothing for bloggers generally, and has taken a lot of the fun out of blogging. In marketing and advertising, “product identity” is critical, and the very samey content and presentation of blogs is arguably marketing suicide.

Creative blogging is really the only antidote to this situation. Good content is the core business model of successful blogging, and creativity is its main driver. It is also the major asset of blogs – the ability to develop new materials and new approaches. This is an extremely flexible medium and allows a lot of experimentation – synergistic with the creative process.

Blogs really are the most effective method of expression for a range of content that couldn’t possibly be done by mainstream media. The creative options are almost limitless and form a major part of the value of blogs as a media genre.

Creative options in blogging

The creative options are quite literally limitless. Subject, content and presentation can be developed and evolved into a unique product. These are also extremely valuable to blogs as both intellectual and commercial property. Some creative blog materials have become true classics and have formed part of the global culture.

Creative product can also fund the development of blogs and blog operators. This is one element of the creative process that can produce excellent results across a range of operations, and also pay for new media assets.

The creative options include:

  • Media content: Unique content is particularly valuable – even salable.
  • Opinions: The original basis of blogging. Opinions (particularly expert opinions) are major products and sources for media information.
  • Graphics: Graphic content on blogs are the most likely to go viral. This material translates into everything from T shirts to merchandising.
  • Journalistic content: Blogs are making major inroads into mainstream news media, and this content is becoming useful commercial property.

There is plenty of scope for creativity in blogging. This is “best practice” for blogging and is also the commercial basis of blogging. Your creativity is your greatest asset as a blogger. Develop your ideas and your blog will evolve with them.

Scooping up the blogosphere

MYSCOOP: South Africa’s new blog aggregator with promise

WHEN the blog was born it was met with mild curiosity in the online world. Suddenly every web user had the means to voice their opinion and views and, in effect, have their very own website. Needless to say, the idea caught on, and there are now thousands of bloggers fighting for popularity and page rank on an ever growing blogosphere.

What was needed was an effective method of categorising the huge influx of blogs and creating order out of chaos. The result was the development of blog aggregators — websites that could track certain blogs and make them more accessible to readers.

These have become the height of entrepreneurial endeavour online, as well as some of the most popular stops for web browsers and bloggers alike. In South Africa we had the emergence of Amatomu — a South African blog aggregator started by the keen minds of the Mail & Guardian online. Amatomu fell in and out of use before officially becoming null and void toward the end of last year. The creators stated that the site had become too much to handle and are currently trying to sell the website.

Then we saw the birth of Afrigator — a uniquely African aggregator founded by a man named Justin Hartman. Afrigator has shown great promise and has spawned several digital offspring, such as Gatorpeeps and Adgator — a micro-blogging service and a South African advertising service respectively. Afrigator has proved to be extremely popular — winning a bronze award in the Publishing Integrated Campaign category at the second annual Bookmarks awards ceremony in November last year.

But with the untimely death of Amatomu there was a large, online shoe to be filled by a new, uniquely South African blog aggregator. Thus came about the emergence of my­Scoop — the latest blog aggregator to take to the rough waters that is the blogosphere.

myScoop logo

What is myScoop?
myScoop is the latest addition to the SA blog aggregator family and also operates as a social bookmarking tool. Created by 25 year old South African web entrepreneur, Nicholas Duncan, myScoop is showing great promise within the blogging arena.

“I use a lot of social bookmarking sites and noticed that South Africa is lacking in this department,” says Nick Duncan. “It was never meant to be a blog aggregation tool at all, but, when I noticed the downfall of Amatomu, I decided to give it a bash and out popped [myscoop.co.za]”

myScoop is also a great example of how the multitude of social networking websites available today are starting to integrate and merge. myScoop specifically makes use of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, OpenID and Blogger accounts — all of which can be used to join or sign into the site.

Nick Duncan is constantly improving myScoop and recently created a badge and ranking system. The site now has the ability to keep track of blog hits, as well as provide information as to what specific pages users are accessing on your blog.

The ranking system keeps track of what blogs are the most popular and which posts receive the most traffic within a day or a month. There is also a dedicated stats section that shows users how many hits their sites had on different dates.

“Right now we offer “live stats” (which is still a bit buggy, but all problems will be ironed out in due time). Once sponsorship is found for hosting, I will be able to develop greater tools for myScoop,” explains Duncan.

myScoop features:

  • Blog profile: Each blog entered has a profile displaying its latest posts.
  • Blog aggregator: myScoop has a blog aggregator that allows you to create a profile and add your blog.
  • Topic stats: There is a very easy-to-understand stats page for each article that shows users the daily clicks for the topic.
  • Community: The overall vibe of myScoop is informative and friendly, which is what all social media platforms strive for.
  • MyPage: Each member on myScoop gets a myPage area where they can follow others blogs and keep up-to-date with what is happening in their areas of interest.
  • Social bookmarking: It has a very easy-to-use social bookmarking platform that categorises and rank submissions according to the number of unique clicks each topic gets.

Unique features and future developments?
The development and functionality of blog aggregators rely heavily on user feedback, which is something that myScoop both encourages and is doing a great job of — by implementing ideas and suggestions offered by its users.

“I would like to make myScoop more community-driven … user input is absolutely vital in any website and I would like to let the actual users steer the ship as to where they want myScoop to go,” says Duncan.

In terms of future developments, Nick Duncan is constantly creating and implementing new features and aims to create a unique user experience: “The ultimate goal is to create something “unique” in a sense; it’s no good having two or three of the same websites floating around … I’d also like to create a platform where users are able to develop their own programs by pulling information off the server. [However] this can only be possible once stable hosting is found,” explains Duncan.

myScoop challenges
A major challenge concerning South African blog aggregators is becoming overwhelmed with online traffic and maintaining connectivity speeds. This is largely what led to Amatomu’s early retirement. Tied in with these issues is local bandwidth — specifically the costs of bandwidth and the lack of it in SA.

“There are a number of factors that hamper the snow-balling effect we all would like to see when it comes to our new startups, such as advertising, hosting and bandwidth costs, says Duncan. These all can limit potential growth, but I feel that, as a young web entrepreneur, staying positive and keeping the momentum, while keeping your ear to the ground and listening to your users, can ultimately lead to your success.”

I personally foresee great things ahead for myScoop and would encourage all South African bloggers join in on the debate and follow its development. myScoop is also a great example of a good South African online service and Nicholas Duncan is one of the most reliable and decisive web entrepreneurs I have come across on the Internet.

About Nick Duncan:
I started playing with PHP about three years ago, but have been into HTML since I was about 12 years of age. I am engaged to a beautiful woman and recently experienced the birth of my boy, Logan. (This of course hampers development time, but is absolutely worth it)! I have two good-as-gold step kids aged five and eight that keep me on my toes. I welcome all feedback regarding the myScoop project, which can be directed at nick@myscoop.co.za. You can also follow @Nicholas_Duncan on Twitter.

Related article: A Beginner’s Guide to Blogging

What’s in a blogroll?

blogrollWell I’ll tell you what’s in mine …

IT’S that time of year once again to do my bit to promote some of the other great blogs out there. These are essentially the ones in my blogroll, which you should be familiar with by now, but for any new-comers (welcome) these are what you may be missing out on:

Gottaquirk operates in the realm if eMarketing and is an online child of Quirk – Africa’s largest eMarketing agency. Published upon their great wooden desk design are posts relating to everything from online reputation management and SEM to web development.

• Justin Hartman is one of SA’s great and fearless online leaders. He is the MD and co-founder of Afrigator – Africa’s largest social media aggregator, which spawned several Gator offspring, such as Adgator and Gatorpeeps. Justin has a knack at explaining complex online strategies to entrepreneurial and eager young minds in easily-absorbable ways. He often shares his well-illustrated presentations on his blog.

I’m confident that 2oceansvibe needs no introduction. Winner of the 2009 SA Blog Awards, 20ceansvive has reached the top of the charts on SA’s blog aggregators, and deservedly so too. It’s updated several times a day with sexy photos, videos and really entertaining pieces. It’s creator is local celeb and all-round nice guy Seth Rotherham, who lives by his motto, “Work is a sideline, live the holiday”. You may want to increase your cap before visiting Seth’s site as you’re likely to spend a few hours perusing his content.

• SA Rocks. There’s no doubt about that. How great to create a blog about all the positively South African people, places and events that make South Africa rock. Nic Haralambos has done just that by punting positive action on his blog SA Rocks, which will always leave you feeling proud to be associated with SA.

• Shaun Oakes is quite a character. One can never be sure where he is or what he’s going to blog about next, but with his cheeky and sarcastic sense of humour, he can make anything sound entertaining. He is an inspiring novelist who has conjured up convincing characters such as The Girlfriend and Some Other Guy. A little grotesk at times, shaunoakes.com is not recommended for sensitive viewers or alien life-forms.

Cape Town is home to the most popular bloggers in SA and Cape Town happenings is often what’s hot in the blogosphere. Cape Town Alive brings you all the events going on in the mother city in a witty, entertaining way. It is also the domain of one of my favouritly-humoured blog writers Kyle Stroebel (a.k.a. stroob).

The Art of Manliness offers something completely different on the blogosphere a blog dedicated to uncovering the lost art of being a man. It may sound a little silly at first, but the husband and wife team behind this tasteful creation have done a fantastic job. They delve deep into the history of manliness and research the lives of great men to offer articles on helping men be better husbands, better fathers, and better men.

The Art of non-conformity is my best find on the blogosphere to date. Its founder is Chris Guillebeau – role-model to the world. Chris has travelled the globe, done volunteer work, published books and is on a mission to help people live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world. Chris’ selfless, bi-weekly blog chronicles his writing on how to change the world by achieving significant, personal goals in the field of work, life and travel all while helping others at the same time.

If you’re a whizz in the kitchen and are keen on learning some new recipes, you need look no further than Cookbook.co.za. It is by far the best cooking blog I’ve come across that is extensive, user-friendly and 100% free. It has recipes for baked goods, chicken treats, Chinese cuisine, yummy desserts, drinks hot & cold, fish, meat dishes, pasta, salads, sauces and soups.

Web AddiCT(s) offers a daily dose of tech – more specifically posts on web and cellphone applications. Quite technical by nature, don’t feel bad if a lot of the content offered here goes over your head – you’re bound to find something to pique your interest. The site recently underwent a re-design and is looking pretty sweet.

  • The above are some of the top blogs (and bloggers) in the South African blogosphere according to our great aggregators.

Top 9 stops on the web

There’s been a lot of talk on the interweb about elitism and how a few have come to dominate the web space and dictate what counts as interesting or useful or not. To this end, less ‘web-optimization-orientated’ individuals who are trying to compete in the cyber-games are often shot down for offering old news or something that ‘everyone’ has already seen or heard of.

Well I take a more humble approach. I specifically write my blog with the ‘un-savvy’ reader in mind. I try to offer well-informed readers something interesting and new but write in a way that any newbies would be able to appreciate and understand. It’s all about sharing knowledge and appreciating people’s efforts for trying.

So with that out of the way here are my top nine things to do on the web! Whether they be new or old to you, I’m sure you’ll at least find something to amuse or entertain yourself with. (In alphabetical order they are):

1. Abandon Games
As an avid gamer (and history lover) I’m a firm believer of being familiar with the past in order to fully appreciate the present. Abandongames.com offers a collection of golden oldies that are no longer sold on the shelves. I like to refer to these as the kind of Games Grandpa Used to Play and are available for free download. You can read reviews of some of my top ones here. Ahhh the nostalgia…

Two other great games (which you can play for free online and kill some time) are table tennis and what I simply call the bunny game. The latter really does wonders for one’s peace of mind with some good soothing music and an indestructible fluffy bunny rabbit.

2. Blogs (Afrigator, Regator, Amatomu & Technorati)
With a multitude of blogs available on the web it becomes tedious trying to find interesting and exciting ones to read. There are several blog aggregators around that try and simplify this process by providing categories and lists of top blogs, top posts, or popular reads by calculating their popularity based on the amount of traffic they receive.

Amatomu attempts to provide the above by tracking South African blogs, Afrigator: African blogs, and Technorati: blogs from around the world. Regator attempts to take this a step further by cordially inviting blogs that are nominated as being the best on the web to feature on their site. It all depends on what you’re interested in, but here’s a list of 15 well-written blogs to get you started.

3. Digital Blasphemy
The ultimate place to go for artsy wallpapers, digitalblasphemy.com offers original hi-res 3D-rendered desktop wallpapers, as well as links to some of the best computer art sites on the web. Created by Ryan Bliss – a self-taught 3D artist, digital blasphemy has a free gallery for non-members to download some incredible digital artwork with no strings attached. You can read more about it here. Digital Bliss! 😀

4. Muti
Muti.co.za has got to be the top place to go if you’re looking for something new and interesting on the web without having to do any browsing. Dominated by a few web-savvy users, muti allows registered users to post links to anything they have found interesting/ inspiring/ controversial on the web and comment on each others posts. Things are made even simpler by letting users vote for posts – thus making it easier for visitors to get an idea of what is generally thought to be worth reading/viewing on the web. Often generates some stimulating conversation too.

5. Peegly
A good way to vent your anger or simply get something off your chest: peegly.com is an entirely anonymous service that requires no registration and lets you speak your mind or share a story relating to love, fear, sins, hatred or anything really. Readers can then vote and comment on the sentiments of others or just read a few to perhaps realise that your life isn’t that crappy after all. A good opportunity to play Dr Ruth and help out a few complete strangers.

6. Questionable Content
Web comics can be a great stress reliever and very therapeutic when having a rough day at the office. There are some really great ones available, but my favourite of them all has to be questionablecontent.net. It follows the life of an emo, indie lad named Martin and his anthro PC Pintsize, and makes use of clever humour and really talented drawings. A good story about nice guys getting ahead in life. Takes a little while to develop.

Another site (which has sadly gone dormant) but has a collection of brilliant comics with intellectual humour is the Perry Bible Fellowship. Highly recommended for a good, full-hearted laugh.

7. The video-web: local is lekker
YouTube may dominate the market when it comes to web-videos, but myvideo.co.za offers a great range of content for video fans. It is basically the South African equivalent of YouTube but with far less traffic and content to sift through, making it more user-friendly in my opinion. The majority of the videos available are proudly South African and it’s great to see how much talent South African video-makers have in this department.

8. Ultimate Guitar
For guitarists (amateur and professional); ultimate-guitar.com offers guitar chords and tablature for just about any song you can think of that’s played with six strings. Maintained by guitarists who have figured out the tunes of their favourite jams, users are able to vote for their top versions of different songs (as there is always more than one way to play a song), and download the tabs of the ones they wish to learn.

9. Zoopy
Your ultimate social media site: zoopy.com is rapidly growing in popularity and offers blog posts, videos, podcasts and an array of photographs. Users get a chance to vote for content they enjoy, post comments, and share their collections with others. It has a great local flavour and has recently optimized its data handling – making uploading and viewing content faster than ever before. A great example of the awesomeness that is South African social media.

PS: I was going to create a top 10 list but found that I couldn’t actually think of a 10th site I visit often (besides the obvious – e.g. facebook, gmail etc). I’m hoping this will encourage the web gurus out there to create their own lists. Otherwise please add links to any great sites you can think of below and lets all share in the wonders of the www!

Related posts:
Digital Blasphemy
Games Grandpa Used to Play
The video-web: local is lekker