My first handout was a Blog Software Comparison Chart from USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review. Since so many folks in the room were blogging or read blogs I didn't feel the need to have everyone sign up for a blog but the comparison chart provides a good starting point for the few who weren't blogging yet or wanted to change their blogging software.
I then provided some quick stats from a Pew Internet Survey report on bloggers.
Who reads blogs
According to a survey conducted in January 2006, 39% of internet users age 18 and older, or about 57 million American adults, report reading blogs.
19% of internet users age 12-17 keep a blog and 38% of online teens read blogs.
8% of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog.
39% of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs.
54% of bloggers are under the age of 30.
Evenly divided between men and women
60% percent of bloggers are white, 11% are African American, 19% are English-speaking Hispanic and 10% identify as some other race.
By contrast, 74% of internet users are white, 9% are African American, 11% are English-speaking Hispanic and 6% identify as some other race.
So with all this demographic information why don't more people comment on blogs? My theory is people thrive on anonymity and prefer to lurk. Even if you write the most brilliant blogpost ever written people may not comment because - even though this communication is meant to be two way -- it's still very much a one way process. What guarantee do you have that the blogger is reading comments or won't delete the comment you read -- or better yet some stranger reading the comment may think you are a dolt. Posting online, as either a blogger or in comments, makes us vulnerable -- and most of us do not like being in that position - so we prefer to sit on the side lines and watch and wait.
Next I had a bunch of links to various blogging type software (this is a nice place to compare them). Where many can be housed on your own server - others that are hosted require you to think about the audience you are trying to reach. Perhaps your demographic is young and their main time on a computer is someplace where there is an internet filter (such as at school)- if that's the case then myspace, facebook, xanga, livejournal and other "social sites" may not be a good idea as a blogging platform since many filters block those sites. Or if you want a more academic look at the blogging software choice this study looks at various pieces of demographic information about bloggers and platforms.
And then, of course, there are the ego building aspects of blogging -- having a nice design, keeping statistics so you can see what is being read (even if there are no comments), and tools such as bloglines, technorati and feedburner so you know who is talking about, referencing, and reading your blog.
Of course there are so many other sites out there that can do these items -- but this was meant to be a sample.
The next handouts were a little different -- they were more the thinking points regarding blogging.
INTERNET LAW - Employee Blogs Pose Potential Problems for Businesses and EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers were meant to give attendees a look from both the institution and the blogger perspective.
Most institutions have policies on the books regarding employee political activity, working second jobs, representing the institution in a positive light, etc -- most universities and libraries do not have policies regarding employees blogging however. 9 times out of 10 bloggers are responsible and would not do anything to harm their employer, the patrons they serve, or their coworkers -- but sometimes bloggers allow themselves to cross the line. That's why it's important for bloggers to know their legal rights regarding what they can post and employers need to realize how far they can go in restricting their employees' speech.
My rule - if it would violate the privacy rights of a patron or cause a colleague emotional, professional or physical harm then it should not be posted.
Lastly I talked about
Purpose - Have a stated purpose as to why you blog. Have a mission statement and stick with it - cover set topics and focus on them. If you chose to blog on librarianship then blog that - try not add your political rhetoric to the posts. If you want to talk about the other then start a personal blog to talk about that other stuff. (Note not everyone will agree with this - but my thought is if you are blogging for professional reasons then remain that way)
Personal - To increase readership your posts need to be personal. The reader needs to be able to relate to them and be able to apply them to their real lives - which leads to the next point
Practical - If you want to make readers stay then make your posts practical something they can apply to real situations - theory is fun but unless it can be put into practice at some point it becomes noise
Opinion - Be proud of your opinion. When you voice your opinion, and the group for which you blog or the place which you work may not agree or your opinion may be controversial, make sure to claim the opinion as your own and to distance yourself from anyone else.
Alright, I think that's it -- did I forget anything?