I recently discovered a blogging work flow tool called Zemanta, that according to its web site will save you time and increase traffic. It works on a number of different blogging platforms, including the one I use, typepad. It recommends links and photos while you write. (Sarah Peretz, Read/Write Web has a more detailed description of how it works and the features.)
Bringing traffic and saving time were attractive enough lures to get me to install it. I took it out for a test drive, initially writing about Zemanta.
I found a few features annoying, most notably the lack of flexibility with the templates. I also didn't like the photos it recommended (and in fact one it suggested was all rights reserved). In some ways, I found using it counter-intuitive to my thinking and reflection process. I was about to ditch the whole experiment when Zemanta recommended two excellent posts by Chris Brogan, "A Sample Blogging Work Flow" and David Peralty on Organizing a Blog Post.
Ah, ha ... maybe it is suggesting that I should write a post about my blogging workflow! That way I can really understand if this tool would help me save time or bring traffic. I also wondered "Can a blogging work flow tool really help you improve the quality of your blogging?"
I created a mindmap of Peralty's step-by-step framework to help me reflect on my steps. I follow something very similar, although I am very reiterative about the process until I publish and similar to Chris Brogan - very organic about the first three steps.
For example, I might not start with a specific a topic in mind. I might instead read through some blog feeds or find interesting links from people I follow on FriendFeed or Twitter and then bookmark posts on topics (within my "beat") that I have an opinion about, something to add, or that I just find interesting. Sometimes I get an idea based on a pattern analysis or connecting several seemingly unconnected posts/ideas together. Many times ideas for topics come from reader comments. (thanks everyone!)
Sometimes I have a specific topic I want to write about and start there. That usually isn't the case. Maybe I should be more proactive in my topic selection and brainstorm a list of topics, pick one, and then go research it.
I also select a visual early on because it helps me think. I might spend a few minutes brainstorming on flickr by typing in combinations of keywords related to ideas to come up with a metaphor. (Usually while listening to Mozart) I guess this could be called research, but it is also idea generation.
After I've written the post, I may leave it in draft for a few days to marinate if I'm not happy with it. I have way too many posts in draft.
The call to action - asking a question at the end to generate discussion is a technique that is integrated into my writing process unless I am doing an interview - but that is a very good point to remember and a useful tip to share with new bloggers.
I think of the publishing and connecting step as what happens after I click the "publish button." If it is a post where I am hoping to get a lot of conversation, I might compose a question for Twitter, my Facebook or LinkedIn status line, add the link to flickr photo illustrating the post, and/or share in the appropriate room on FriendFeed.
How do you get your inspiration or ideas for blog? Do you follow a framework like this? Are you using Zemanta or similar tool? Why or why not?
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