Blogging 101: A Guide to Successful Blogging

Blogging 101… Blogging for Dummies

 

blogging-101
blogging-101

Image copy-pasted from myfhamortgageblog.com

A number of readers have emailed me over time, asking me questions like, what inspires you? Well, life does. Wherever I go, there is always something worth blogging about. Whatever happens in my life can always be put into a certain way so that it’s interesting to read. As you should already know: it’s not the story, it’s how the story is told.

That being said, most of the emailers (if I may call them so) wanted advice on how to blog, what to blog, and such like tips. I’ve decided to compile my top ten blogging rules:

1. Passion

Blog about something you are passionate about. Be it sports, the weather, your wife and kids, your job, your life. That way, you won’t run out of steam over time, you can write for years and years about your subject/main theme. Sometimes you may want to blog about an event/show/elections or anything temporary. That is also okay, some blogs are only relevant for a time. I choose to write about my life because as long as am alive, there will always be something to write about.

2. Regular Updates

Make sure you update your blog frequently, either weekly or bi-weekly. Unless you are very very interesting, no one is going to come back more than twice if they come and find the same stuff they left. Also, ensure there is a subscription button on the blog so people don’t have to come to your site to check for updates. Blog updates will be sent directly to their mail.

3. Writer’s Block: What to Do

I just talked about regular updates above. So what do you do when you have a writer’s block or you’re too busy to sit down to write a proper post? Well, wordpress helps. Google too. Just search these two sites and you’ll get tones of advice.

Personally, I like to get a captivating picture, like the one below, or I copy-paste an interesting email forward, such as this or this.

Tiger Woods stars in Broke Black Golfer

4. Patience

So you start a blog and you expect to get 1000 hits per minute. It’s not gonna happen that way. Unless you’re Paris Hilton posting a sex tape. Don’t worry if at first, there is no traffic to your blog. It takes time (even a whole year) to build traffic to sustainable levels. Do not give up if you find no one visited your blog for a week. As I said, it’s all about passion. If you’re passionate about something, you’ll continue writing about it even if no one is reading.

5. Motivation: Reason for blogging

If you’re looking to make money from blogging, I think you’re choosing the wrong hobby. If making money from your blog is your main reason for blogging… I don’t have words for you. Honestly, I blog because I just have to write, and right now, I wouldn’t dream of putting up ads on my blog.

However, I’m not saying you can’t make money from blogging. I’m just saying that’s like a side benefit, a byproduct of good blogging. I know money makes the world go round, so find a day job.

6. Publicity

The main challenge in blogging is generating traffic. First you let your friends know, then they’ll tell their friends who’ll tell their friends. There is also facebook and twitter, which are very important in generating publicity to your blog. You can have facebook automatically import your new posts as you publish them. Share the link on twitter and tag people if you have to.

Reading other people’s blogs and leaving comments on the posts you read together with a link back to your blog is also a good idea, kind of like a network of blogs, you know? My earliest readers were other bloggers.

7. Response

When your readers leave comments, it’s only fair to respond to them. That way, they feel appreciated and loved. Okay, maybe just appreciated. Even the haters, I think the moment you have your first hate comment, that’s when you know you’re becoming a successful blogger. Provide an email address so that readers who want to say something to you can do so.

8. Originality

Do not take credit for something you did not write. If you copy-paste from someone else, or lift photographs from a certain site, please give credit to the original authors/creators. Do not copy the format or the way some other blogger does their writing, bring something fresh and new to the blogging scene and we’ll keep reading your work.

9. Platform/Theme/ Layout

Choose a blogging platform that’s awesome, like wordpress. Or blogger. Or I don’t know what else. Choose a short but memorable URL- that’s the address of the blog.

When picking a theme, find one that’s easy to read. One that matches your theme. If you’re doing gothic poems, perhaps a dark theme would be suitable. If you’re writing about sunshine and sugar and spice, choose something nice and bright.

The layout should encourage readers to explore your blog more. Have a calendar with recent posts, and an archive/tags/categories so readers can find something else to read apart from the main page. Experiment with the widgets and pick those that work best for you.

10. Be interesting

I saved the best for last. Ultimately, the only reason people will keep reading your work is because you are interesting. There are so many boring bloggers out there… I feel like shooting myself every time I have to force myself to even go past the first paragraph. Keep your posts short if you can’t be interesting. Longer posts can only be read if there is enough suspense/good flow. Your friends will lie to you, saying you’re a wonderful writer but you can tell the truth with time. Someone out of nowhere, someone you don’t know, will email you/leave a comment telling you they enjoy reading your working. If it happens more than 5 times, you can be convinced you’re interesting. Use pictures to add flavor to your posts.

That being said, I’d appreciate your feedback on this. If you have any more blogging rules/tips, you can leave a comment. Here’s to happy blogging.

First Class Honours Degree in Computer Science

When I first entered JKUAT, I was determined to get out with a first class honours degree. And I got it! I’ve been walking on air this past week because I’m ecstatic.

What does this mean? It means I get a teaching job at the university as a teaching assistant, a scholarship possibly to do my graduate studies and possibly numerous job offers from top companies with fat cheques. Well, a girl can dream. And I’m definitely a dreamer.

 

First class honours, sweet, yeah?
First class honours, sweet, yeah?

I dream of going to Oxford or MIT. I’m leaning more towards MIT ‘cause they have this Masters Program: Theoretical Computer Science that I’m interested in. That’s the theory behind computers, did you know that the modern computer was thought of, and worked out theoretically, long before there was technology to actually build one? Charles Babbage thought of the computer (analytical engine) in 1822? So I’ll be among the team of the Charles Babbages of the future, get it? (Btw, Ada Lovelace was his assistant. One of the earliest programming languages was named after her. She’s Lord Byron- the poet-’s daughter.)

Some students have asked for tips for getting a first class honours degree, the trick is simple, get As in every unit. Aspire to get 90% and if you get 70%, that’s still an A. Get more advice here: Savvy’s Guide for Campus Students.

When I was in first year, I was very enthusiastic, I never missed lessons, I woke up early to study, I read ahead, I did research, I did the homework/assignments, never copied etc. I was good girl.

With time, my enthusiasm wavered. It’s only natural, it’s human to lose interest after a while. I read less, skipped more classes, copied assignments (shhh…don’t tell) but I never copied during CATs or exams.

However, I didn’t let my grades slip and I read a lot towards exam time.

During exams, I slept at least 8 good hours. I’m not a last minute readers, so if I had a paper at 8.30 a.m. I’d wake up at 7.30 a.m., have a good breakfast and head to the exam room.

I didn’t cram (most times), cramming is so high school. I understood first. Then if I wanted to, I could cram later so I could write answers word by word. So even if I forget what I crammed, since I understood, I could recall the answers.

Undergraduate studies are more of recall than reasoning. Lecturers don’t have time to create new questions, every question they ask has been asked before. So do your revision well.

First class honours. I’m still wrapping my mind around that. During graduation, my three names will be read! I can’t wait to go for graduation (which is not until June/July), I had told my classmates I’d come vroom vrooming on a motorbike. I’m taking lessons as I write this.

redmotorbike
Well, I dream of something like this.

Friendliness: It’s not a matter of race

I’ve met so many people here, from so many different nationalities: Germans, Americans, Croatians, Canadians, Kenyans, Italians, Britons, Spaniards, Congolese, Zanzibaris, Belgians, French nationals (Frens? Frenchians?) etc. Most are tourists, some work here, some to visit, some for whatever reasons… goes without saying I’ve met lots of Rwandans too.

 

black-hat-white-hat-struggle
It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white

Let me break this into locals and foreigners:

Rwandans

Reception from locals is mixed. One time, I was hanging out with the Zanzibari (I’ve since learnt they are not called Zanzibarians) at a small café, and someone asked us if there are no jobs in Kenya/Zanzibar. Well, we broke it down to him: had we remained in our own countries, we’d have got better paying jobs (after lots of competition, of course) and we’d be in cities with vibrant social lives (read fun). Of course, we seem to be escaping competition and we have an edge in the rat race here because we are generally (sic) more qualified. We want to contribute to Rwanda’s development (at least that’s my dream) and I don’t intend to stay here forever, but when I leave I hope to have left a mark. We then told the guy who asked us the question that this is not a matter of just Rwanda but East Africa, let there be love among us. He was welcome in Kenya/Zanzibar anytime!

So far one of the challenges I face every day is trying not to scream when someone says: “but you look like one of us, how can you not speak Kinyarwanda?” Well, I have news for you: every black person looks Rwandan. There are black people in Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Senegal… and they all don’t speak Kinyarwanda. I’m trying to learn it, you know, the basics. I even borrowed a book: English, French, Kiswahili and Kinyarwanda phrases that is so inaccurate (at least the Eng/Swa translation because I understand these two languages), I literally laugh out loud at some of the translations. Everywhere I go, whenever I tell people I don’t speak Kinyarwanda, they’re always genuinely surprised. “ You look Rwandan!” Then they tell me they’ll find me a Rwandan husband.

Well, some of the kids we teach conservation education have taken a liking to me. One time during recess, one of the girls wanted to take me to a market somewhere and buy me tea because she thought I’d be so hungry by the time the class would be over. Glad to know someone cares about me! I politely declined but they ask every time I’m in their class. Later, we had a broken conversation (as in, it was hard to understand each other), and she told me about her brothers and sisters, then asked me how many children I have, or if I’m married.

The other Rwandans I’ve met have all been very nice to me. My co-workers, I love them very much. Some others who are friends of friends, them too. The girl who works down by Volcana Lounge where I sometimes play pool. Some vets from Kigali.

The Other People in Rwanda

Well, foreigners sounds like such a harsh word, innit? Though I think it’s better than aliens!
By far, the Americans are the friendliest. I guess by the time they overcome the images ‘genocide’ brings into most minds, they’re pretty much open-minded and informed. So they’re not likely to say something like:

“Wow, you speak good English.”

It’s a miracle! A Rwandan who speaks good English!

Then when I clarify that I’m Kenyan, they sometimes nod their heads in understanding. Sometimes they’re still puzzled as to how an African (am using this term loosely, I think I mean a black African) can speak such good English.

So I’ve had some ask me, “pizza, you know pizza? We’re going to have that.” All the while speaking slooowly so I can get what they are saying. Other times, if I happen to hang out with some of them amongst other friends, they won’t speak to me directly and am like, why am I even hanging out? I love staying in my room listening to music, typing these blog posts…

But as I said, these are rare times. If someone actually decided to travel to Rwanda, they must be well informed and it’s always fun to interact with all these different people from all over Africa, and the rest of the world.

The question am sure you want to ask me is, how do I meet all these people?

Well, I live at a guest house. It’s quite small, so I get to meet all the visitors that pass through, staying for a day or two at a time. Then there are friends, and friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends… I think that’s what we Kenyans like to call connez (connections).

connections
Connections, see what I mean?

 

Parties, Funny Pets and Long Weekends

Last week, there were two public holidays in Rwanda. One was Heroes’ Day which was on a Tuesday (1st Feb) and the other was an elections day for local leaders, which was on Friday (4th Feb) so in the end, we only went to work for 3 days! How can I not love Rwanda if this trend of holidays continues?

So because Tuesday was a holiday, Kim threw his party on Monday night. Who is Kim? Oh, he’s a fun guy who sits on the board of MGVP. That’s the abbreviation of Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, gorilla doctors who are partners of AoC, where am interning currently. Whenever Kim is in town, he throws a party and everybody is invited. Open bar and some finger foods, what more can anyone ask for on a Monday night? Suffice to say, I got home safe with albeit with little drama involving a captain in the Rwandan army, a cigarette and Amarula. Some stories are left untold, you know?

We went back to work on Wednesday only to learn Friday was a holiday. This time, I just chilled out. Read my book, Wizard of the Crow, by Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Worked on some long overdue report… came up with a nice format/template, now to fill in the information and acquire appropriate pictures.

Later on Friday evening, I went for a walk with my boss to see her friend. The friend (who’s a vet) had just acquired a new puppy, and they were debating on names: Strider, Aragon, Gollum or Rocky. The first three names are from The Lord of The Rings, FYI. The puppy’s a um… I forget the breed but he was only 3 months old. He’d traveled for almost a week, from Paris to Amsterdam to (I don’t know where) to Kigali to here…

She has two other dogs apart from Puppy (his temporary name though Rocky was beginning to stick.) Her 7-year-old daughter is a bundle of energy and she loves animals too. She took me round their place: they have a donkey, called Punda. He’s a cute donkey, little but that’s his size, he’s fully grown. She has a saddle and rides him sometimes.

Next… she showed me their guinea pigs. (Just for those who might be thinking so: they’re not pigs from Guinea but a cross between rats and rabbits.) I didn’t want to hold them at first but after a while, figuring out if they can’t harm a 7-year-old, what can they do to an over (slightly over) 18? So I picked one up, petted it and gave it a carrot. They love carrots. They’re just so cute, one is er.. I forget their names. I think  Mdogo was black and white, and Sir was pure white with sparkling red eyes.

 

A very cute guinea pig
A very cute guinea pig

This weekend, I also went for swimming at the nearby Ishema Hotel. You pay about 1500 Rwandan Francs and swim for the whole day.

 

swimming-pool
The Ishema Hotel Swimming pool. Image from www.tripadvisor.com

And after finishing Wizard of the Crow on Sunday, I went to visit a workmate. I’m doing rounds visiting everyone I work with during weekends, don’t ask why. I’m trying to build relations, friendships, you know? Anyway, he made me watch a longer than 1-hr tape of his wedding! (Yawn). But I only write good things about my colleagues, so the wedding was very interesting. No drama, nothing out of the ordinary, just a nice wedding. Then he handed me about 1000-photo album with guess what, just wedding pictures! I was thoroughly entertained. And well fed by my hosts.

Here’s to Rwanda.

Definitions

I didn’t want to tweet this coz a blog is more permanent, you know? Anyway, maybe you’ve read them before but they always make me smile.

Cigarette: A pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end & an idiot at the other.

Love affairs : Something like cricket where one-day internationals are more popular than a five day test.

Marriage: It’s an agreement in which a man loses his bachelor degree and a woman gains her master.

Smile: A curve that can set a lot of things straight.

Lecture: An art of transferring information from the notes of the lecturer to the notes of the students without passing through “the minds of either”.

Conference/Seminar : The confusion of one man multiplied by the number present.

Tears : The hydraulic force by which masculine will-power is defeated by feminine water-power…

Classic: A book which, people praise but do not read.

Divorce: Future tense of marriage

Office: A place where you can relax after your strenuous home life.

Yawn: The only time some married men ever get to open their mouth.

Etc.: A sign to make others believe that you know more than you actually do.

Committee: Individuals who can do nothing individually and sit to decide that nothing can be done together.

Experience: The name men give to their mistakes.

Atomic Bomb: An invention to end all inventions.

Philosopher: A fool who torments himself during life, to be spoken of when dead.

Diplomat: A person who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.

Opportunist: A person who starts taking a bath if he accidentally falls into a river.

Optimist: A person who while falling from Eiffel Tower says in midway “See I am not injured yet.

Pessimist: – A person who says that O is the last letter in ZERO, Instead of the first letter in word OPPORTUNITY.

Miser: A person who lives poor so that he can die rich.

Criminal: A guy no different from the rest… except that he got caught.

Boss: Someone who is early when you are late and late when you are early.

Employee : One who gets paid for reading such mails……