TIMELINE: 12 tips after three years of blogging… and some reflection

“Of course,” said John Lennon in passing, “the problem is we’re bigger than Jesus.”

Always put the most eye-catching quote in the first par of a feature is indeed a handy trick to know.

It reels the reader in and makes them want to read on. Same for pictures too. Get something arresting and witty.

Two things I’ve learned over three years as a blogger. There. Now they’re yours.

Only thing is, a Beatles quote and a picture of an exploding car doesn’t work when it’s a reflective piece. Unless, of course you use them as a device to get people reading and keep them reading by offering blogging tips in amongst the reflection.

Tip three:  Have a very understanding partner who doesn’t mind you hammering into a laptop when she’s watching the telly.

Tip four: Don’t worry that your first few are rubbish. It’s the law.

Now for some reflection. Three years ago I started to blog to add to the debate and conversation. There were many people I admired and respected and very few of my contemporaries are still at it. Many have moved on and are now turning their talents to other things. Realising this made me feel a bit lonely. Every blog has a lifespan. It made me think of what this blog’s timeline would be. We Love Local Government was a blog that was a cornerstone on the digital landscape. Speaking to the people behind it Glen Ocsko and Gareth Young a while back I felt a burning sense of kinship.

“Sometimes you really don’t want to write something,” one said “but you sort of have to because you’ve set yourself this deadline. Which is mad because it’s all self-imposed.”

Tip five: Write where you feel comfortable. In a chair. On the train. At the kitchen table. Vary it if it helps. But give yourself a weekly deadline.

One lapsed blogger Ingrid Koehler drifted through my timeline today. Ingrid used to work at the IdEA. It’s criminal that her talents have been lost to the public sector. She is responsible for some great work and much of it stands the test of time. Like her Connected Councillors guide, for example.

Ingrid used to collect case studies and blog them insanely early the morning. It was one of the many inspirations for comms2point0 a blog about comms and PR and an idea that Darren Caveney came up with that I sprinkled some hundreds and thousands on.

I spoke to another lapsed blogger today too. Sarah Lay is still passionate about what she does but has taken a conscious step back from writing.

We spoke of how the great mountain of work and case studies on digital innovation in local government has been produced in people’s spare time. In my corner of the allotment, it’s about public relations and communications.

We also spoke about how you can only go so far to embed good digital practice by out-of-hours work and unconferences. We’ve both thought at one time or another that they were the golden bullets.

We agreed that if local government is serious about mainstreaming change then the bright sparks doing the innovation need to be able to have room – and funding – to create and share the best practice sweets.

Tip six: It doesn’t matter what you write about is niche. It’s your niche and you’ll be amazed at how you’ll find fellow travellers.

On a lighter note, three years on and Hyper WM is going from strength to strength. A loose collection of local government people help run it. This time, Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton and officer Liz Onions have chipped in and former Birmingham City Council officer Si Whitehouse is taking a lead this year. The first 50 tickets went in 24-hours. If you want one go here. Quickly. It makes me feel quietly proud something that was quietly floated on this blog  following a Eureka conversation with Si Whitehouse has taken root with help, love, dedication and cake from a bunch of others. A handful of people read that blog post proposing it. But the good thing was that several of those that did wanted to come and wanted to help. That’s the beauty of a blog post. It circulates an idea cheaply.

Tips seven to ten: Write about things you are passionate about. Write one every week. Post what you write on Twitter and add the #weeklyblogclub hashtag for a ready made audience.

Since I started there are new bloggers in and around local government whose work I love. There’s comms officer Stuart Macintosh from Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, Ross Wigham head of communications at Northumberland County Council, London social worker Ermintrude2, Carolyne Mitchell in Scottish local government and from the US Jim Garrow who is doing some brilliant stuff. Matt Murray in Brisbane Australia is doing some great stuff with photography. Kate Hughes does housing comms really well, Helen Reynolds of Monmouthshire County Council writes some cracking stuff in Shropshire Jon King  and Kate Bentham  are doing some brilliant things as is Phil Jewitt at Leeds City Council while the weeklyblogclub initiative skippered by Janet Davis is a constant source of good content.

Whatever the future holds for me I’m sure that it will be in part because of the work I’ve done and shared. I’m certain of that.

Tip eleven: Compfight is a brilliant tool to search for creative commons pictures for blogs (especially ones of people smiling which draw you in.)

Tip twelve: Don’t write too much. A few hundred words will do. That’s why I’m ending this post here.

Around 3,000 people read this blog every month which is slightly mad. If you’ve read, commented, shared or taken something from any of the 120 posts I’ve written in the last three years from me to you: ‘thank you’.

Creative commons credits

Join the Conversation


  1. Dan, you and those mentioned above, and there are others, are an inspiration to loads of folk; to those who write and those who read. Some great tips and as always food for thought.

    Thanks for this post…I will come back to it.

    It is apparent to me from the last couple of years, after reading others posts and learning by doing, that the things that we thought were innovative are becoming more mainstream, fact. Yes people come and go but their legacy lives on and others pick up the baton. They say ‘form is temporary and class is permanent’, well THAT!

    Here’s a quick personal example of the change in perception that has happened. I chanced to see your tweet this morning whilst getting my breakfast…thought that sounds like a ‘now’ sort of a read an read it. Two years ago I would have thought can’t do this now, need to get to work………BOOM….thing is what we are talking about right now, right here, (me in my dressing gown and slippers), SO is work.

    It’s networking, it’s sharing advice, experience, contacts. It’s the professional (and personal) development we perhaps don’t have the budget for…and yes it’s part escape….but it is mainstream work.

    So I thought a right back at ya response was merited. Yes I won’t be in the office at the normal time…but the office is all around us these days.

    A personal thanks from me to you and those mentioned and the others….I now see the world of work in a different light.

    1. Thanks, Phil. You are quite right about what was once ionnovative becoming mainstream. It’s something me and Sarah touched upon in our phone conversation. Digital case studies were rare as hens teeth once upon a time. Now it’s rare for an organisation not to be embracing new channels.

      There’so many people doing interesting things online it’s maybe unfair to mention a few and not all. It’s fair to say that if I follow you on Twitter or have your blog i your RSS there’s been nuggets of insight and inspiration that I enjoyed.

  2. More great stuff Dan – thanks in particular for the compfight tip – didn’t know about that one!

    My only (small) disagreement would be with ‘write one every week’. Back in the day when people went to websites to check for updates this might have been important but in these days of feed readers and twitter does it really matter? There is also perhaps a risk that people might be put off if they feel they might not achieve this.

    Yours, a very occassional blogger.

  3. Enjoyed reading your post. Thanks very much for mentioning #weeklyblogclub – which has an ever-changing variety of personal and work posts. We’re always delighted when you contribute a post, Dan, and I rather miss the days when Sarah Lay helped to start it all by writing posts too.
    It isn’t easy to write every week – but it does get easier to write in a work as well as a personal context if one does write a post weekly, even just a short post with an interesting picture. I try to emphasise to Weekly Blog Clubbers that blogging once a week is an aspiration, not an obligation – and that our members include all those who read every week (because writers need readers).

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