SELECT p.id, p.post_title, p.post_date, p.comment_count FROM wp_posts p INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships r ON (p.id=r.object_id AND r.term_taxonomy_id=1) WHERE p.post_type='post' AND p.post_status='publish' into outfile '/tmp/published.txt';and another list of terms and taxonomy IDs:
SELECT t.*, tt.term_taxonomy_id FROM wp_terms t INNER JOIN wp_term_taxonomy tt ON (t.term_id=tt.term_id AND tt.taxonomy='category') INTO OUTFILE '/tmp/terms.txt';After a little spreadsheet manipulation involving
VLOOKUP-ing the category name that I manually entered for each one, I copied the term taxonomy ID and post IDs into an Emacs buffer and used a keyboard macro to change it into the form:
UPDATE wp_term_relationships SET term_taxonomy_id=? WHERE object_id=? AND term_taxonomy_id=1;where 1 was the
Uncategorized. Since I was on a roll, I decided to categorize everything from 2007 onwards, which is farther back than my manual index goes. That got me through about a thousand items before I decided it was enough filing for one day. As of the time of writing, there were 6512 posts on my blog. 4,536 posts (70%) belong to various categories, while 1,976 are still uncategorized. I hope this work pays off! =) I expect that it will make my blog a little easier to browse.
|Goal 1: Learn||Goal 2: Explore||Goal 3: Improve||Goal 4: Save time||Goal 5: Build||Goal 6: Learn from others||Total|
|T1: Draw original stuff||5||5||5||5||5||3||28|
|T2: Draw book reviews and events||5||2||5||5||5||5||27|
|T3: Think out loud||5||5||5||1||5||3||24|
|T4: Share tech tips, troubleshooting notes, or code||5||5||3||4||2||4||23|
|T5: Review longer spans of time (yearly, decisions)||5||4||5||1||5||3||23|
|T6: Write tips that few other people can cover||4||2||3||3||4||3||19|
|T7: Write tips that other people can also cover||3||1||2||2||2||2||12|
|T8: Review recent posts (weekly, monthly)||1||1||4||1||4||1||12|
|Post type||Number of pages||Number of views||Average page views per page||Average minutes per page view||Average bounce rate|
|T1: draw original||23||2875||125||3.4||67%|
|T4: share tech||149||12468||84||5.8||74%|
|T2: draw book / event||41||2346||57||2.3||64%|
|T3: think out loud||62||2452||40||3.4||72%|
|T5: review long / decision||14||504||36||2.7||73%|
|T6: write tip (few)||41||1392||34||3.1||72%|
|T7: write tip (many)||24||461||19||4.7||73%|
Blogging should expand your brain. It’s a great tool for learning things, so why limit yourself to what you think you’re an expert on? I want to write about things I don’t know. Then I can help other people get started, and other people can help me learn. (Hence the preponderence of “Thinking about…” and “Learning…” posts on my blog versus “How to…” posts.)
Research lets you jumpstart your learning by building on other people’s experiences. Fortunately, you have access to more information than you could ever read, thanks to the wonders of the Internet.
I’ve been re-learning how to research and how to synthesize that information for blog posts. It’s much more useful when you’re no longer trying to pad a school report with three to five reliable sources. Did you come across an interesting post on a blog? A great message on a forum? Go ahead and link to them, no PhDs required.
1. Make an outline of the questions you want to answer or ideas you want to explore.
You’ll be reading a lot. It helps to have a framework that shows you what you’ve covered and what you need to look for next. Here are some outlining tips from Journalistics. Here’s an example: my outline for blogging skills.
2. Search for “good enough” resources.
Don’t worry about finding the absolute best resource. Look for good-enough resources, and prioritize as you find more. Don’t link just for the sake of linking. Every link should add more insights or details.
I usually go through the first five to ten pages of Google search results. If people quote an even better source, I follow that link. Sometimes I’ll try different search queries based on the titles of blog posts I like.
You can quickly get a sense of whether a blog post is better than other things you’ve read. Does it give specific, punchy, perhaps unexpected advice illustrated with personal experiences, or is it your run-of-the-mill link-building blahblahblah? Speed-reading can pay off a lot here.
Want to go into greater depth? Look for relevant books and read them, summarizing the key points for your readers. Google Book Search is great for searching inside books, and Amazon’s recommendations are handy too. I sometimes check out seven or more books on a single topic, read them all over a week, and pick out key points for a blog post. This is an excellent way to add value, because most people won’t have the time to read the same books.
You can also check out other channels: podcasts, Twitter conversations, online Q&A sites, magazines, research papers… Go beyond blog posts when looking for resources, and you’ll find plenty of relevant material.
Good news – you can’t lose. If you find excellent resources right away, then you don’t have to write a big blog post. Just learn from those resources, and maybe write a post with your question and links to the best resources you found. If you spend an hour searching and you can’t find anything you really like, that’s fine too. Chances are that other people are frustrated by it too. Take that as a cue to write the blog post you wish you’d read.
3. Add key points and links to your outline.
By adding to your outline along the way, you’ll see how ideas are related to each other and where the gaps are. If you’re copying an exact quote, add quotation marks so that you don’t accidentally plagiarize it when rereading your notes. Better yet, paraphrase it right away. To make citations easier, add attributions or links. That way, you don’t have to chase down references.
Here are Cal Newport’s tips on how to use an outline to write papers quickly: outline the topic, find solid sources, capture quotes, and then turn that outline into your paper. Works for blog posts too.
4. Reorganize your outline and notes.
Take another look at your outline and reorganize it until the flow makes sense. The order in which you find resources is rarely the order in which you want to share them. For example, you may want to categorize the tips you’ve picked up, combine similar items, and arrange them in a logical order. You can also compare different viewpoints and line up the arguments for each alternative, then conclude with recommendations. With a little paraphrasing, you might be able to fit the tips into a creative mnemonic. Play around with the structure before you start writing your post.
5. Add value through summaries, insights, and personal experiences.
While searching for resources, you might have noticed an intimidatingly large number of results. For example, searching for how to do research for your blog gets more than a billion search results. Why add one more?
You’ve probably also noticed that many results are missing something. Maybe you didn’t find a single post that answers the exact question you wanted to explore (or if it did, the answer was buried in an intimidatingly long post). Maybe most of the search results are fluffy self-promotional pieces. Maybe they’re badly formatted and hard to read.
There’s room for you to add something of value, even if it’s just a good summary. Other people could spend a few hours reading all those search results and books, and trying to map out the insights from various resources… but if you’ve already done the work, why not save them some time and share what you’ve learned so far?
Add your own tips. While researching, you’ll probably think of a few points that you can’t find in the pages that you’ve seen so far. Write them down. Maybe other people didn’t write about those tips because they’re more experienced than you and they took that for granted, but other beginners will find those tips useful. Maybe other people didn’t write about those tips because you’re more experienced than they are (or at least you’ve made different mistakes). Add your thoughts.
Tell personal stories. Instead of just sharing advice, share your experiences in applying that advice. What worked well for you? What could have gone better? This is a great way to learn more, too – you’re not just passing on advice, you’re trying things out and adding your own perspective. A.J. Jacobs and Gretchen Rubin do this really well in their books on life experiments, and are definitely worth reading.
I hope these five steps will help you learn new things while writing blog posts. You don’t have to limit yourself to what you know. You can use your blog to help you learn. Good luck and have fun!
How do you research ideas for your blog posts?
Image credits: Stack of books by discpicture (via Shutterstock)
Author’s note: I feel like this post should have more links in it, given the subject. I’m not particularly impressed with most of the posts I came across in my research, though (see the last point in step 2). Do you have any favourite resources along these lines?
The advice these days is to include a large image in your blog post, somewhere “above the fold”, so that it can attract attention, visually break up the page, and make your blog post more interesting. That way, blog themes that use featured images can include that as the thumbnail, and magazine-style feed readers (I use Feedly) can make your posts look cool. The image should be relevant. If you’re using someone else’s image, observe copyright and attribution requirements.
I like cats, so I’m going to bend the rule about relevance and add a cat picture here.
If I want to learn more about visual language, stock photos and Creative Commons images might be good ways to do that. Less work than taking pictures of things myself, and more realistic than drawing.
One of the reasons I dislike stock photos is that they can feel fake. You know, the bunch of all-white (or, rarely, obviously diverse) business people who are way too excited about a meeting. See Corey Eridon’s post on 13 Hilarious Examples of Truly Awful Stock Photography. I don’t think the examples are awful, but you’ll recognize the clichés.
What does “good” look like? Of the blogs I read, which ones use images consistently, and what do I prefer?
Lifehacker uses images well, and it looks like they customize their photos or make original ones too. Dumb Little Man, Priceonomics, Wise Bread, Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, and Under30CEO include images with every post, although sometimes the images look a bit… stock-y. So I have role models.
What do I want to learn from using stock photos?
I want to be inspired by the way human emotions and situations can be translated into different contexts. I want to expand my collection of visual metaphors. I want to get the hang of matching ideas with comics (or making my own).
What’s getting in my way?
Thinking of the right keywords, and being happy with the search results. For example, let’s say that I want to express the concept, “being frustrated with search results.” Needle in a haystack? Frustrated person?
This is kinda what I mean. Sometimes it’s easier to draw than to search.
It’s this odd combination of too many choices, and yet not quite what I’m looking for – but I think that has more to do with skills I need to develop, ways I need to learn how to see and think.
How do you learn how to use images anyway? Most of the blog posts and web pages I’ve seen just harp on copyright, assuming you’ve got the sense to pick out images on your own. If I want to get better at this, I need to get better at brainstorming concrete images for abstract concepts, coming up with keywords for more efficient searching, piling up sheer exposure – stuffing lots of stock photos into my head until I build my “stock photo vocabulary,” or my visual vocabulary in general.
I filtered through more than a hundred pages of Google search results related to how to choose stock photos. Here are the best resources I’ve come across so far:
WAYS I CAN LEARN
A. Write the post first, then look for images.
More topical and closer to my existing workflow, but can be frustrating because of my criteria. I don’t want fake-looking models or situations. I don’t want meaningless fluff or
On the plus side, if I spend half an hour searching for an image and still can’t find it, I probably have a better idea of what I want and how it’s different from what I’ve seen. Then I can draw it.
B. Browse for images first, then follow the inspiration to write posts (maybe with my outline).
Possibly fun, possibly a time-suck. Randomness is my friend. There’s always plenty to write about, so I’m not too worried about finding a topic – although I do want to make sure that each post is fleshed out enough so that it’s not just an excuse to share an image.
Have you taught yourself how to work with stock photos and blog posts? Can you help me figure out how to build my stock photo vocabulary?