Blogging development – advice from people who do it

The international development community is active, passionate, switched on to new technology, and generally pretty cool with newbies. So if you’re interested in development and you have something to say, you might consider blogging.

There’s a lot of advice on the internet, particularly about blogging. If you removed all of the blog entries with bulleted lists of the things you should be doing, the internet would fall over. Fortunately, there is some genuinely useful advice out there for people interested in sharing development learning, ideas and best practice – from people who are already doing it.

Marc F. Bellemare has written a good list of points you should be aware of before you even start a blog. I’m currently encouraging a friend working in a development role to start, and this has been a useful reminder of some basics. Accumulate content before you promote your blog. Be concise. Keep it up. Use Twitter to engage.

Chris Blattman’s blog carries some advice on avoiding the perils of blogging. Don’t write angry, avoid arrogance, don’t escalate, don’t be too negative. It’s all in his post and well worth a look. It may all seem like common sense stuff but the anger, arrogance, escalation and negativity you see in some online environments (not necessarily development related) suggests that the advice is still needed.

I’d add to Chris’s tips with a few of my own, and include behaviour in social media:

  • Don’t write anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face. Self-explanatory?
  • If you’re not sure whether you should hit the publish button, don’t. Save a draft. Leave it for 24 hours, then come back to it. If you’re still not happy, trash it. Some of the most useful blog entries I ever wrote were the ones I never published – sometimes all I needed to do was articulate a frustration or research a topic, I didn’t need to share it.
  • Be prepared to discuss your writing in the comments or elsewhere. Be prepared to apologise or change your mind if you’ve been persuaded of an argument. I have a lot more interest in reading the blogs of people who actually engage with their readers, on the blog or elsewhere. It’s what blogs are for. It’s a discussion, not a commandment carved in stone.
  • Don’t tweet angry. Or grumpy. It’s really unattractive. People may well care, but assume that nobody cares if you’re in a bad mood. If you’re pissed off, you’re better off walking away from your computer and being outside anyway.
  • Avoid snark at all costs. Even if you think you’re good enough.

Weh Yeoh has started an excellent discussion on the perils and merits of writing critically or controversially online – with contributions from some great bloggers. By the way, if you’re interested in development or working in it and you’re not on Aidsource, be on Aidsource.

Wayan Vota offers some good advice on blogging for professional success in international development. Work out who your audience is and focus on them, engaging them where they reside. Keep your focus on specific outcomes. Don’t rely too much on your blog as a promotional tool – remember things like your business cards, your CV.

Check out these as well: