Tag Archives: advice

6 Tips for Creating a Community Through Replies

Reply to CommentsContent is king, frequency is crucial, formatting and theme are important, and authorial tone (including humor) often makes a world of difference when it comes to successful blogging. But let’s talk about a sometimes-forgotten aspect of your blogging lifestyle: replying to comments.

Engaging your community through replies is extremely valuable, and especially for beginning bloggers who are in the process of building a brand and an audience. It gives commenters a sense that their views are important to you, and that they can make a difference in the direction or content of the current discussion. This will make them (and others) want to visit more. It also breaks down the rather imperial one-way street of blog content. When visitors feel that a blog’s content is going in two directions, they’re more likely to engage, increasing your traffic.

Here are six tips to start your moderating career off right.

  • Delete derogatory, racist, expletive-laced, or otherwise hate-filled speech. Don’t sink to their level and try to respond to or somehow deconstruct such comments. Not worth your time!
  • Combat comment spam. Naturally, you need to take steps to eliminate all of those wonderful broken English solicitations for designer handbags and Canadian pharmacy medications. Current versions of WordPress come with the anti-spammer plugin Akismet, and SpamFree is also a popular plugin. In any case, find a way to automate the process rather than burden yourself with the headache of manual deletions.
  • Brevity is your friend. Comments are not the place for entry-length commentary. Don’t take too much time and bury good content in replies that are harder to find than proper blog entries. If a reply warrants a whole other entry, make a new entry, and acknowledge the user who spurred the new topic.
  • Make like Gandhi with the haters. Unless you’ve cultivated a particularly tough persona and an appropriately tough audience, it doesn’t make much sense to spit venom back at those who denigrate your site, mock your expertise, and belittle what you have to offer. Non-constructive insult-slingers deserve just what they would if they called in to some huge corporation’s customer service department: an indifferent, diplomatic answer. “I’m sorry you didn’t respond to the entry. Please check back next time, and hopefully you’ll find something more to your liking.”
  • However, correct misconceptions. Vague insults are one thing; if someone is taking issue with a contention you’ve made, replies are the proper forum to engage in a healthy debate.
  • On a related note, freely admit when you’re wrong. Very few of us are some sort of unimpeachable masters of our field. First and foremost, we are intellectually curious and passionate about our topic of choice, and that’s what drives your content (and your audience). Check your pride at the door and acknowledge mistakes.

How do you handle replies? Do you think they’re useful in building a community?


5 Brainstorming Techniques for Project Managers

Project ManagementAs we all know, sometimes the solution to a project management problem isn’t obvious. There may be many moving parts: clashes of personalities, supply problems, technology limitations, personnel shortages, or any number of other challenges. That’s why it’s often useful to sit down in a room with key staff members, throw things at the proverbial wall, and see what sticks.

Here are five brainstorming techniques that are specifically useful in a project management environment. They can be used in a meeting of any number of people, and in a variety of industries. The key is structuring the meeting properly, including introducing each technique effectively, and leaving criticism at the door (that is, at least until you actually get down to evaluating the ideas everyone has generated).

Examining Parallels – How have others in your field tackled the same problem you are tackling? What successes did other organizations have, and where did they fall down? The “others” you are examining could be direct competitors, but it also might be a related but distinct industry. This technique is all about emulating success while at the same time learning from others’ mistakes and making corrections. A brainstorm session using this technique might lead to some competitor research, which can then spur new ideas.

The Mind Map – The mind map is analogous to a tree, with a central trunk (the end project goal) branching off into broad and then more specific sub-categories. For example, if your goal is a “successful acquisition,” you might list “information technology,” “personnel,” and “facilities” as sub-topics and then riff into more sub-topics.

Survival of the Fittest – Do some brainstorming in a freeform, “anything goes” style. After an initial round, knock out the least viable ideas and concentrate on the ones most people feel are promising. Then, do a second round of brainstorming, but with ideation triggered by the “survivor” ideas of the first round. With a third and even fourth round, you’ll likely arrive at brainstorming gold.

Devil’s Advocate – Yes, in this method you get to tear down ideas. But it’s actually much more productive than a first glance would tell you. In Devil’s Advocate, you challenge some basic premises of the goal itself. If the project schedule is three weeks, why? Can it be four? If the goal involves the entire company, could it involve just a few departments? These are broad questions, but Devil’s Advocate can get quite specific as to your individual goal. By challenging assumptions, you’ll arrive at new ideas.

Wall Siege – In this technique, you switch from the project goal to the impediments in the way of that goal. Which of the “moving parts” I talked about in the introduction are in the way of a successful project? And how can these obstacles be reduced or eliminated?

Are there any brainstorming techniques we missed that you’ve found particularly helpful in the boardroom? I’m always up for trying new techniques so please share them in the comments!

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