Blogging As Conversation


Recently someone asked me, “What keeps you blogging? Especially after the initial novelty of setting up a blog has worn off?” and I was able to respond with one word: conversation.

Speak Of Me? Or Speak Of Thee?

What do I mean by that?  For me, and I think this applies to most genealogy bloggers, blogging is not about getting up on a soap box and spouting off about certain aspects of genealogy or my family history.  To me that is not just self-centered but it also seems like shouting out into a universe that may or may not be receptive to the message.

Blogging is about the conversation for many of us and for me it is the conversation that keeps me going and buoys my spirits each day.

Components of a Blog As A Conversation

So how can you carry on a conversation with others through your blog?  There are three main areas:

  • Comments: most blogs have comments enabled and for many this is the main area of conversation between the blogger and the reader.  Not only is the comments section good for leaving feedback or your opinion, but it helps to see what others think about a particular post or idea.
  • Linkbacks and attribution:  even when a conversation is rolling along with great ideas being tossed about, we need recognition and validation.  In blogs this is done by linking back to blogs and posts you find helpful and attributing ideas and concepts back to the originator.
  • Yielding the floor: this means having the ability to post open-ended questions as well as hosting guest posts from other bloggers in your area of expertise.  Not only does it demonstrate that the blog is more about the conversation than you, it allows readers to feel a sense of participation in the conversation.

Ways To Be A Good Conversationalist

There are various ways you can keep the conversation rolling and build a reputation as a blogger of someone who engages their readers instead of merely speaking to them.

  • Enable comments.  The easiest way to foster conversation is to allow your readers to leave comments.  This is not an easy feat for many of us – the Internet can be a wide open frontier with some not-so-nice people.  This is why you should always moderate your comments (meaning you review them before letting them appear on your blog) and most blogging platforms allow you to do this.  Also, make sure you have a comment moderation policy so commenters are aware of what is and isn’t permitted in the conversation.
  • Link back to good content and good bloggers.  When discussing a concept in a post, don’t forget to link back to content that can support your argument.  Seek out those blogging colleagues who you respect – even if you don’t always agree with them.  Not only will you help recognize their contribution (and send traffic their way), but you’ll also build your reputation as a blogger who can see an issue from various angles and perspectives.
  • Give proper attribution.  If you are participating in a carnival or a meme, don’t just mention the original post and the blogger who created the concept, link back to it and let your readers know how the idea started.  Colleagues who create online events often put quite a bit of work into them and even a simple “thank you” and a link back will let them know the value of their contribution to the community.
  • Encourage guest posts.  Not only do guest posts give you a “break” in not having to come up with a post, but it also shows your readers that you are part of a larger community.  Seek out those blogging colleagues that have specific areas of expertise and drop them an email asking if they’d like to guest post on a certain topic.  And remember to link back to the guest blogger’s site when their post goes up!
  • Respect an exclusive story.  Face it, the genealogy world is not often “rocked” with “breaking news.”  But if a fellow blogger appears to have an exclusive on a story (and they may have worked hard to get that exclusive), make sure you link back to their original post.  This is different than being the first one to post about a press release that was sent to all genealogy bloggers – this does not constitute an “exclusive story.”  But an “exclusive”  does not mean you can’t post about the story – you can discuss how you feel about the story, what it means to the community etc.  Just respect and recognize the blogger who broke the story.

Do you have any tips especially for those new to the world of blogging in terms of holding a conversation with readers?

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

A Heartfelt Thanksgiving

thanks tree

As many genealogy bloggers are either traveling over the river and through the woods, or getting ready to host family, most of us will take some time and say thanks – either through a blog post, in a prayer, or perhaps aloud to our family and friends.

I would like to thank all the readers of GeneaBloggers for helping to build a vibrant community of genealogy and family history bloggers.  Whether engaged on Facebook, or Twitter or blog posts, it continues to amaze me what a great time it is to be a genealogist!

GeneaBloggers will have its 500,000th visitor (yes, can you believe it?) sometime next week and I want to thank everyone for their support.

Here is a list of Thanksgiving posts from genealogy bloggers:

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Preview – Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories


Way back in late 2007, several genealogy bloggers had an idea: why not create an Advent calendar using different Christmas and holiday-related topics for each day?  Why not prompt other genealogy bloggers to write about family traditions and how they or their ancestors celebrated Christmas? Thus was born the first Advent Calendar of Christmas memories.

How It Works

  • Below you will find the prompts for each day leading up to December 25th. Topics cover Christmas trees, holiday foods, travel, religious services and more. We want to know how you, your family and your ancestors celebrated or continues to celebrate these traditions.
  • Conveniently, on certain days you’ll be able to “kill two carnivals with one post” as it were: your ACCM post can also be used on certain Madness Mondays or Treasure Chest Thursdays.  On December 10th, the prompt ties into the Smile for the Camera carnival and on December 15th, the prompt ties into the Carnival of Genealogy.
  • There are also two days (December 9th and 17th) designated as “Grab Bag” – meaning you can post on the holiday topic of your choice.
  • You aren’t required to submit a certain number of posts! The holiday season is meant to be enjoyable and is already littered with too many deadlines.  The goal here is to have genealogy bloggers write posts of interest to them – it can be 1 or 24!  This is meant to be fun not a burden.
  • There is no official submittal form and very few rules.  You simply must have your blog listed in the GeneaBloggers Blog Roll and use the words Advent Calendar in the beginning of your post title.  This will make it easier to find the posts and tag them in Google Reader.
  • Those who participated in 2007 are welcome to repost their earlier entries or create new ones.  Most of the topics are the same and, in fact, most of the dates even line up with those in 2007.
  • Starting December 1, 2009, the Advent Calendar will appear at the top of the GeneaBloggers page. You can click on that day’s date to reveal your prize: a list of all GeneaBloggers member blog posts for that topic.
  • Finally, while all posts will be listed for that day’s topic, we’ll also highlight those that really stand out in terms of writing style, creativity, humor, etc.

The number of genealogy bloggers has greatly increased over the past two years and ACCM should be an exciting way to write your family’s history while at the same time sharing those stories with your colleagues.

The Prompts

December 1 – The Christmas Tree
Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

December 2 – Holiday Foods
Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

December 3 – Christmas Tree Ornaments
Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?
(Note: this post can be used for Treasure Chest Thursday as well)

December 4 – Christmas Cards
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

December 5 – Outdoor Decorations
Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

December 6 – Santa Claus
Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and “make a list?” Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

December 7 – Holiday Parties
Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

December 8 – Christmas Cookies
Did your family or ancestors make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

December 9 – Grab Bag
Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

December 10 – Christmas Gifts
What were your favorite gifts, both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?
(Note: this post can also be used for the Smile for the Camera carnival)

December 11 – Other Traditions
Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa?  Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

December 12 – Charitable/Volunteer Work
Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women’s shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?

December 13 – Holiday Travel
Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?

December 14 – Fruitcake – Friend or Foe?
Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?
(Note: you can also post about a “fruitcake ancestor” and use it for Madness Monday!)

December 15 – The Holiday Happenings!
Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we’re going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.
(Note: this post can be used for the 86th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy)

December 16 – Christmas at School
What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

December 17 – Grab Bag
Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

December 18 – Christmas Stockings
Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it? Do you have any Christmas stockings used by your ancestors?

December 19 – Christmas Shopping
How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

December 20 – Religious Services
Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?

December 21 – Christmas Music
What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?
(Note: perhaps there is a particular Christmas song that drives you mad – a perfect post to use for Madness Monday as well!)

December 22 – Christmas and Deceased Relatives
Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?
(Note: you can also use this post for Tombstone Tuesday)

December 23 – Christmas Sweetheart Memories
Do you have a special memory of a first Christmas present from a sweetheart? How did you spend your first Christmas together? Any Christmas engagements or weddings among your ancestors?

December 24 – Christmas Eve
How did you, your family or your ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee