-Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
Starting a blog is easy and free. Blogging software has become so easy to use in recent years that no special knowledge beyond typing and extremely basic computer skills are needed. Several companies offer free software designed to make blogging as simple as possible. Blogger.com, typepad.com, and wordpress.com are all excellent, reputable services through which to blog. It is easy to sign up for an account, chose a design, and start blogging.
Seniors who are ready to blog need to know several things:
- “Blog” is an abbreviation for “Web log.” It’s like a note or newsletter online that anyone can read. Blogs can, however, be password protected if you want to allow only certain people – family, former classmates, military friends – to read a blog.
- People who write blogs are called bloggers, and they usually write about things that interest them or about which they have some level of expertise.
- Blogs can be about professional subjects, follow news events, chronicle hobbies or projects, or simply be a sort of public journal. Blogs are most rewarding for the bloggers/writers when they have a clear focus. Knowing what a blog is about helps the blogger come up with thing to write about. Being consistent also lets readers know what to expect when they go to a blog and makes it more likely that they will return regularly to read what’s been written.
- Most blogs allow readers to leave comments, which can lead to interesting, engaging exchanges between the blogger, readers, and other bloggers. Not all blogs allow this, however, and it is up to the blogger if their blog will accept comments from readers.
- Blogs need an audience. Who is your audience? A blog aimed at family members is very different from one designed to appeal to other bridge enthusiasts.
- How often are you going to blog? There is no need to post everyday, but have a schedule for yourself – 2 times a week, weekly, every other week – for when you’re going to write on your blog. Regular posting makes the blog more useful for a senior looking for mental stimulation. Regular posts also lets readers know when to expect to find something new on a blog and make it more likely that they will return regularly to read what’s been written.
- Keep learning. Once you master writing blog posts, try adding a photo or a link to other blogs or articles or pictures online. Blogs are mentally stimulating both because you’re writing on them and because they challenge you to develop new skills and synthesize new information.
- Be honest, be yourself. The best writing – the kind that people return to read – is honest and reflects the author. You don’t need to pretend to be more interesting, better technically skilled or anything else to have a blog.
- Engage your online audience. Ask for comments or opinions. If you’re having trouble with the blog or some technical aspect of it, your online audience may be able to help. The best blogs are often like conversations between the bloggers and their readers.
- Remember that blogs are public. Unless you set your blog to be able to be read by only certain people, anyone can read your blog. In any case, do not post financial information or other personal details you wouldn’t want the general public to know.
For seniors who are interested in sharing stories but not ready to commit to having a blog of their own, Ronni Bennet’s Elder Storytelling Place (http://www.ronnibennett.typepad.com/elderstorytelling/) is an excellent place to start. She invites other older adults to post their 750-word or less stories on her blog by emailing them to her. It’s a wonderful way to share memories and engage in the age-old form of entertainment and engagement: telling stories.