Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm not Harry S Truman

"All my life, whenever it comes time to make a decision, I make it and forget about it." said Harry S Truman. (http://www.worldofquotes.com/topic/choices/1/index.html)

I'm not Harry S. Truman.

When Ben from Inside History Magazine asked me to nominate this year's list of 50 blogs you need to read in 2013 I was honoured. It's always nice to get a repeat invitation because it means you must have done something right the first time.

In 2012 I tried to be objective with my choices; for this year's list I suggested to Ben that I must be more objective so I really did my homework. I read many articles on what makes a good blog, canvassed the opinions of fellow bloggers via Twitter and then set up a spreadsheet ((or assessment rubric in eduspeak)) listing the criteria against which I would assess the blogs. As this list was primarily for an audience of Australian and New Zealand  readers I favoured blogs from those areas or those foreign blogs with relevance to downunder peoples. I immediately eliminated many worthy blogs but this didn't concern me greatly because there are a number of blogging gongs in the northern hemisphere that they can earn.

My first source of blogs for consideration was from my many RSS subscriptions. I then did some Google searching for genealogy blogs from Australia and followed this by having a look at the lists of blogs that some of  my favourite bloggers follow. My list grew and I found that I had several hundred blogs to consider. Years of evaluating assessment tasks when I was an educator prepared me for the business at hand.

I visited all of these blogs until I had a list of 80+ blogs to consider seriously. It took me a few days to look at these blogs, measure them against my criteria and consider my gut instinct (the subjective element of the process) and come up with a list for Inside History Magazine. I sent them my Excel worksheet with 50 suggestions, additional strong maybes and the definitely don't bothersInside History Magazine had the final word, they scratched some of my choices, added a couple that were unknown to me and replaced a couple of others. When they sent me the final draft I only objected to one of their replacements and they changed that.

I am happy to stand behind my choices because I went through a thorough process to find and evaluate blogs but I'm not Harry Truman.

I keep searching for and thinking about potential blogs for the list. After we settled on the final list I said to Ben that I had just found some new blogs that looked promising but it was too late to consider them.

New blogs worth a look are:
Carr Family Search (New blogger Ed Carr is a member of my local historical society) http://ecarr357.blogspot.com.au/
Genealogically speaking from young blogger, Caitie G. http://genealogically-speaking.tumblr.com/
GenXalogy http://genxalogy.blogspot.com.au/
Hawkesbury Heritage & Happenings from Michele Nicholls (whose husband Jonathan Auld has a blog on the list) http://hawkesburyheritage.blogspot.com.au/
KK Genealogy Blog http://kkgenealogy.com/blog-2/
TNG Blog (love that software) http://tngsitebuilding.com/blog/

Just in case Inside History Magazine is going to repeat this exercise in 2014 (and invite me to be involved) I want to be prepared. If you come across any new blogs that should be considered for the list please let me know. I am especially interested in blogs from genealogy and historical societies where there is a dearth of good blogs. My RSS list expands daily but there is plenty of room for growth, please send me your links.

I'm interested in hearing what you think makes a great blog.


8 comments:

Kim and Kristy said...

Thank you so much for considering us Jill. That's a real compliment.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Jill - I was so interested to see who made the top 50 this year. I could tell that you had thought long and hard about it. And I really liked the changes you made to the reporting of them - categorizing them and so on. It was a great article.

What makes a great blog? Hmm...tricky. Depends what you're looking for. I guess it needs to be current - i.e. something that looks like it's being maintained regularly and isn't like last week's newspaper or last year's magazine. It needs to be Engaging - it should be pretty to look at or easy on the eye - design is important and I wish I was better at that. Pictures often tell a story better than words too but it can't be too crowded with stuff or people won't see the wood for the trees. Inspiring and Informative are probably the last two criteria I would use i.e. it encourages you to go off and try something new or tells you something you didn't know. Right - I'd better go off and apply those principles to my own!!

John Sparrow said...

Hi Jill,
I follow a number of numbers. If someone was looking at the same names as I, then that would be first. Then the same area.
But three I really like are thought provoking about genealogy in general. They are Genalogy's Star (James Tanner), The Legal Genealogist (Judy Russell) and Dick Eastman's blog. I agree most American blogs of little interest, but I do follow some from the the UK (location of ancestors).
Hope this helps
John Sparrow

Jill Ball said...

Thanks for the feedback, I LOVE getting comments.

Alex I will clip your thoughts and save them in Evernote. I may quote you somewhere, sometime (with attribution of course).

John, thanks for the comments too. I had James' blog on the list, he sometimes writes about Australia. The Brisitsh blogs are relevant to many Australians due to their British Heritage so I have also ncluded a few.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

hi Jill,

I was interested to read how you made your "cut" Jill and the collaboration with Inside History. Your comment about overseas blogs explains the absence of some from the list, and sensibly you've given us choice from the Down Under crew predominantly. There are so many good ones in the blogosphere I'm impressed you could do the cull, and even more honoured that you included my blog in the 50! It sounds like it was a lot of work for you, so thank you very much.

Like Alex, I love how I learn from what others are doing and so am inspired to try different things.

Kim said...

I've been thinking about your question "what makes a good blog?" today and thought I would share my ideas on it with you too.
I think a "good blog" is a very personal opinion and depends totally on what your particular interests are.
Yes, I know you are speaking about genealogy blogs but we are all at different stages of researching and have different interests as well.
One may say that a good blog is one that gives away lots of free information.
Another may say that a good blog is one that concentrates on one particular topic.
Another may say that a good blog is a running commentary on current events in the genealogical world.
There are endless subjective details that could be used to categorise a good blog as opposed to a Not Good blog.
For me, I look for character in the writer. Someone I can connect to via their words. I like conversational styles that allow me to see the real person behind the blog. I like friendliness to come through in the writing.
I also like blogs on particular areas... subjectively... the areas I'm interested in.
I'd love to know what the criteria are for the selections of The Top Blogs by Inside History but even if I did now, to be honest, I wouldn't change the way I present my own blog, because it's me and I figure you can't please all the people all the time.
I'd hate to know there is a formula, but, in this day and age, I'd probably quickly learn there is.
So, that's my tuppence worth. Thanks for the opportunity to connect Jill.
Regards, Kim

caiteile.com said...

Well... I was going to "keep my gob shut"... (for a change) because my honest opinion would surely be considered "sour grapes, however Kim's post gave me the courage... especially as she is a recipient of the award. Then I was going to "skirt" the issue by suggesting that if you really want honest feedback Jill then you need to request private feedback from those whose work it is that you are judging, albeit without their knowledge in this particular situation. This is simply normal practice nowdays where the work of adults is being assessed... well it is here in South Australia. My two sons, who are University Lecturers, complain about it quite often {chuckle}...

I agree with Kim re: curiosity about the criteria used for judging work considered worthy of acclalim. You've alluded to your process Jill but not any details. The criteria mentioned by "Inside History" has clearly not been followed when, at just a glance, it's clear that a large number come nowhere near the mark. So, surely if a person's work is going to be publicly judged they need to be advised of the expectations. Furthermore, if a person's work is going to be compared with those of others, and the results made public, then surely their permission is required... or am I missing something here?

"What makes a great blog?" ... In my opinion, lots of blogs are "great" but those which keep me engaged are primarily to do with the character of the blogger... i.e. those who show integrity and love communicating and sharing ideas... who relish feedback and delight in the freedom to discuss differing opinions ... a place where you feel safe to express your views, know you'll get a response and where you'll be respected and appreciated for even bothering to read their writings. What I do not need is just bland information which I can access anywhere... a website, a library, Wikipedia and especially my dear friend Madame Google... What I want is engagement and if I don't get that, I soon lose interest. Sometimes I do hang on a little longer to see if things change.

In closing it saddens me, and I don't understand why, many who chose to withdraw from the passing on of Awards to fellow bloggers, for reasons discussed endlessly online at the beginning of this year... actually consider it an honour to accept an Award from a business which brings to that company a huge amount of free publicity. Makes absolutely no sense to me but guess I always have "marched to the beat of a different drum"...

So there you have it... my tuppence ha'pennnies worth.
With best of wishes as alwayseg, Catherine.

Jill Ball said...

Thanks for the comments and opinions. One of the things I like about blogging is the opportunity it creates for online conversations.

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