Why you should learn how to blog in Derry (ahem, the Slugger O’Toole way)

I hate telling people how to do things, particularly blogging (just ask my fellow writers on Slugger). For a time I thought it was going to be an idea whose time had largely been superceded by microblogging sites like Twitter and Facebook.

However next weekend I’ll be in Derry (yay!!) for a day-long course in which I’ll be exploring the core underlying value of blogging, and why it still matters. Broadly, here’s six reasons why you should take such an investment seriously:

Voice – Not something you think too much about at the start, but it is something that insinuates itself as you proceed from day one.  From days one to fifty it is likely you haven’t a clue what yours is, but you are also unlikely to have enough readers for that to matter as much as it will later on. Figuring out what you want to say, and how to say and with whom to share it is a long but fulfilling process.

Placemaking – A blog very quickly becomes a place that people either come to or, God forbid, avoid. Although the blog is assumed to sit outside more generic forms of social media (it generally does, and that’s a very good thing) it also has its own automated ways of building awareness in the space online. Within three weeks, Slugger was pulling in 90 readers a day, and I hadn’t told a soul.

Connection/community – After placemaking, comes community building: ie, connecting with and between people of differing perspectives. This means seeking opportunities for social learning (your own as much as the people you seek to connect with). A conviviality of space, therefore, is the most needed quality for this to happen. Be patient. No one spoke on Slugger for seven months.

Story generation – In an abundant era of digitised information, of AI, Machine Learning (two reasons why derivative, copy and paste journalism is on the rise), the real shortage is human-generated stories. The blog is an antidote to the big algorithmic “meaning-making” machines of Facebook, Twitter and others. Good stories create good conversations, which in turn bring more and fresher insights.

Independence/ownership – Autonomy is a thing. It comes with the blog, but everything you give to Twitter and Facebook belongs to them as soon as you write that short piece or give them those pictures and videos. They’re the best tools we currently have for wide sharing, but once given away it is theirs, not your content. Important to remember that Twitter and FB have the memory of a fish.

Memory (aka, the archives) – Probably the most valuable aspect of the blog. As the first UK Labour MP to blog, Tom Watson, once said, “my archives keep me honest”. These online diary entries help you map and develop your thinking over time. They make you accountable to your audience in ways other more conventional writing forms do not. And it adds rather than subtracts authority.

There are still plenty of tickets left, which you can book directly from the hosts of next week’s event the event which will now happen in the Spring, the Irish Writers Centre. Tickets are in Euros (€28), but you can purchase them in Sterling (about £25). For a whole day workshop, it’s more than a bargain.

Check out our Slugger event page to see who else is coming, but you have to get a ticket beforehand to be sure of getting a place. I’m looking forward to it, and not because it’s in my second favourite northern city (who couldn’t love somewhere so close to Donegal).

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