Blog Action Day 2015

Blog Action Day 2015

Every year, this blog participates in Blog Action Day, a global effort to drive conversation around a given topic. This year, bloggers are being asked to focus their Blog Action Day 2015 post around the theme "Raise Your Voice", with a specific focus on blogging. In many other countries, there are efforts to silence dissent, to stifle free speech, and to bring visibility to critical issues. But this week, I'm taking a slightly different approach to discussing blogging.

In our current media culture - and especially in Chicago - we're rather indifferent to the power of blogging, and that needs to change.  Immediately.

You may think that my statements are a bit self-serving - after all, I'm a blogger for Chicago Now (and have blogged personally for about eleven years), but blogging can be a critical outlet - many platforms are free, it's a great way to establish a voice, and can be critical in driving conversation. Blog Action Day's focus in 2015 is about challenges to bloggers, but I want to take a slightly different approach, especially when it comes to social benefit and social good in Chicago.

I think we should encourage blogging for both community-based organizations - and their constituents - as a way to raise their voices toassure they are heard, and more importantly, help develop stronger digital literacy skills throughout the metropolitan Chicago area.

Most non-profit and/or social enterprise blogging consists mainly around fundraising, marketing, or other functions ....but far too often,
smaller, more grassroots-based, smaller organizations lack even the basic resources. In addition, technology can be incredibly intimidating formany community residents. There can even be huge communication gaps between nonprofit/social benefit organizations, corporate/ business partners looking to develop partnerships, and residents/recipients of nonprofit services. In short, potential community collaborations are hindered not by larger forces, but by a fundamental inability to communicate with each other. Annual reports can be wonderful for a nonprofit, but community members can - and should - be given a greater voice outside of a two-sentence testimonial.blog

And the most important thing - we need more diverse voices in blogging. One of the many organizations I collaborate with openly advocates for diverse voices in spectulative fiction - that a greater pool of diverse writers (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc) will result in a broader spectrum of fiction, but more importantly, a more diverse range of voices will be heard that were previously held back. As a great first step towards digital literacy, blogging allows for people (and organizations) to articulate their experiences in a way that they would not have previously had before. Moving towards digital excellence - the ability of underserved communities and populations to engage and use technology and digital tools - is critical for Chicago's economic and community development, and blogging might be the best first step. (And if you're not aware of all the great activities happening that are driving digital excellence in Chicago....you need to read this blog more often.)

Blogging isn't a cure-all, by any means, but it's a great first step....but many people are intimidated by the process. As part of Blog Action Day,
my goal will be to address some questions about blogging - the kind of questions that hold people back. Questions like:

How much will it cost to start and run a blog? - Some platforms like Wordpress.com and Blogger are free to use and will host your posts. (Wordpress also has a more full-blooded content management system - Wordpress.org - where you would have to purchase
hosting, which means that another server would hold the actual files of your blog. For a domain (or the http://www.insertnamehere.org), most reputable domain registrars charge about $10 - 15/year. You would have to configure it yourself (or "tell the domain where your files are"), and that leads to our next question:

How will I do all this technical stuff? - Most platforms have an FAQ (or "frequently asked questions") file that provides insight, or you can simply search on a question and find plenty of documentation files. (For example, click on the link for "how do I configure my blog domain?")

But I'm not a very good writer - how will blogging help?  Can you take photos? Video? Blog posts do not necessarily have to be verbal, nor do you have to be a great writer. Blogging is about raising your voice and speaking your truth in your own way. If it means taking photos or doing a video blog (like Jay Smooth), you and/your organization have a way of standing for your truth.

Do I need to blog every day? No - you can do weekly or biweekly posts, but just blog regularly. (And yes, I do need to take my own advice, don't I?) Carving out an hour a day to write can be a challenge....but it's a challenge that brings great rewards.

Blog Action Day 2015 is focusing specifically on efforts to stifle those voices that are using blogs to be heard. Blogs are one of the more underutilized digital tools in getting the word out about the greater community....and my hope is to assist those voices in being heard.

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