“Why don’t I ever post comments to this site?” Let’s be having you

January 28, 2014

Delia Smith

Delia Smith

“Why don’t I ever post comments to this site ?” asked Louise? “I read it regularly. I’ve even ‘liked’ some of the blogs.”

A good question. Louise teaches leadership on courses around the world. So why doesn’t she contribute comments?

“You don’t get many comments at all.”

It’s a fair point. I mumbled something about maybe readers are a bit embarrassed to post comments for some reason. Maybe my students don’t want to risk looking foolish? But Louise isn’t a student.

“Perhaps” added Louise “you can ask a question at the end of a post to encourage comments”.

Me: “I have to think about how to do that. Maybe I need to work on it” [was I being defensive?]”

So I thought a bit about the idea and came up with a question which may be the sort of thing Louise had in mind.

The question inviting comments

So here’s a question for readers. I know you are out there, at least visiting Leaders We Deserve, even if you don’t comment. Do you have any suggestions to add to Louise’s which you would like to contribute? Why not write a comment? I read them all, and try to comment back. Don’t worry if you think your English is not good enough. Our readership comes from over 180 countries, and there is editorial help if needed. I look forward to reading your suggestions.

And after commenting, how about writing a post?

Maybe it’s one short comment for Louise and one big step towards publishing a blog post. As the national treasure Delia Smith once said, appealing to her [football] supporters “Come on, let’s be having you’. Students are particularly welcomed.

Tudor Rickards
Editor, Leaders We Deserve


A Blog is Born: Advice to a new blogger

January 10, 2014

Tudor Rickards

You have started a business course and you have to write a blog post based on a current news story. Here’s one approach based on experiences of writing and publishing over a thousand such posts

I write two leadership blog posts each week for Leaders we deserve. In six years, I have never failed to find suitable news stories. Here are some tips which have worked for me as I clocked up over a thousand posts for Leaders We Deserve.

The Mapping principle

I think of what I am doing as map reading, map testing and map making. You can find a lot of posts if you search for map making on this Leaders we deserve site. A fuller explanation is to be found in Chapter 1 of Dilemmas of Leadership.

Map reading refers to your examination of the primary source or sources of your news story.
Map testing is when you look more carefully at the news story to assess its credibility. That is why looking at more than one source of the same story is valuable. Here I like to use my imagination by trying to guess the most urgent dilemmas facing key decision makers.
Map making is ‘getting personal’ by relating the news stories to your own experiences. If you understand the post you can change that map and comment on what you have done. Even more important, you may have made some change to your own personally important knowledge. For example, a story may show you a new interpretation about a piece of information or of your belief. The map making refers to changes in your maps or to your version of the original news story.

Here is a post with a three minute test with ten questions. You can take it to test your understanding of the mapping principle.

Active search

Each day I search actively for a breaking news story which has an easy to understand main point often expressed in its headline. If I see such a story with a leadership implication. I become more interested, and test if it is attracting social media interest on Twitter.

Writing your post

Stage one is reporting your map reading in your own words.I cut and paste the core of the story, always with the source acknowledged, I hope. However, if you are working on a student assignment, check with your tutors and with examination regulations if you are worried about word limits, citation style, and acceptability of cut and paste efforts.

Beyond factual reporting and IMHO

The post becomes more interesting and will gain more approval and ‘likes’, even from examiners, if you add something new. Map-testing is one way. Introducing interpretations or personal judgement is fine, but make sure you indicate that you are not mixing beliefs with assertion of accepted facts. On the Internet this is still sometimes signaled by IMHO which stands for In My Humble Opinion.

An example

This week I carried out my active searches as usual. On Monday [January 6th 2014] I reported on on typical story about the future of Hollywood blockbusters. You can read it as an example of my mapping approach. My map reading showed the debate about the future of blockbusting films in face of new technology. My map testing suggested to be that there was plenty of evidence to suggest that Hollywood faced dilemmas of escalating costs of movie making and risks of trying out original story lines.

Map-making suggested that I had seen something similar in a quite different context, namely in the pharmaceutical industry, and this gave me a hook for the story. Maybe leaders in Big Pharma face similar dilemmas to those facing movie makers. The old models are failing: should they work harder to fix them or change to new business models? Can they risk the company on one or two as yet undiscovered innovations?

Summary

If you want to try out this system, to help you write a blog, start today. Look at the breaking news stories. Try to capture their core point or headline. Test the assertions in the reported stories. Look for tough decisions or dilemmas facing leaders. See if the process links with your personal beliefs, the O in IMHO.

And revise thoroughly

And for most people, thorough revision pays off.

Good luck in your future blogging.


Writing a post for Leaders We Deserve

October 10, 2013

Tudor RickardsLeaders we deserve (LWD) welcomes blog posts on topics relating to leadership. Here are a few suggestions which will help a post towards publication

Note to MBSW MBA students
These notes are provided for general contribution to LWD. You will find specific information on writing a blog post within your course instructions, which have slightly different requirements to the following

Get a feel for the LWD house style

Over 600 blog posts had been published on this site by January 2011. A house-style had emerged. New authors are encouraged to find the sort of post they would like to emulate and follow its structure, using the hints suggested here.

Write in clear English

LWD posts have been modelled to some degree on the style to be found in that excellent publication The Economist.

Use a plain (‘vanilla’) format if you are an inexperienced blogger

A plain (sometimes disparagingly called a vanilla) format is recommended for inexperienced bloggers to submit material to LWD. A simple word document will do.

Can I submit in WordPress format?

Yes. Experienced authors can prepare a post using a document prepared for saving as a WordPress post.

To do this, you first have set up your own WordPress blog, and write to its Edit Post facility. The result will then have all WordPress embeds (bold, itals, even images). You can publish on the same blog, and/or save and paste the content to submit to LWD.

Starting a WordPress blog is easy and free.

Length of post

Our typical posts are about 600 words long. We welcome briefer posts (it’s harder to be concise than to be verbose). We rarely accept extended posts, as these may be too contrary to LWD style.

Write about a single issue

A post in LWD typically examines a single issue (not a range of diverse personal thoughts, as might appear in a diary e-journal).

The topic or issue that you write about will have a central idea which often connects with a contemporary news story. Sometimes a quote from the earlier text helps. By adding a link to that post you retain important accurate information.

Create a simple clear title

The title should explain the story. Descriptive titles are to be preferred over displays of creativity which may be ignored by many web surfers who might be interested in the point you make in the actual post. Short titles are better than long ones. [Experienced writers sometimes use long titles for creative impact.]

Add value

You can (and are advised to) add value for the reader to the contemporary story you are dealing with. You can add value by taking a news item further, drawing on personal experience.

Another good way of adding value is to show how the story you are writing about connects to some prevailing concept of leadership.

Find an interesting topic

It a topic interests you, it is likely to interest others. Get into the habit of story-telling, which is a skill you can develop through writing, but also through conversations as well as more formal presentations. You can see the news stories which caught the eye of the Editor by looking at the entries saved to del.icio.us (on the Right Hand side-bar of every LWD post).

Use a taster to focus your writing

The first paragraph or taster is often picked up by web-searches. A brief introduction which acts as an invite or teaser (‘there’s more to come’) helps. Forty words or less is to be preferred. This will appear in Bold face in the published post.

Edit

It is a good habit to be self-critical and edit your post as if it were to be submitted for a prize. It’s worth the effort. The ‘right first time’ approach rarely works. For example, this page will be saved in draft form, and re-drafted to smooth out the worse parts of the style with help from spell checker and sometimes colleagues.

This advice is particularly important if you want your post to attract interest and maybe be re-sent to others (the basis of viral marketing).

Add value through a few links

Key items for web-searchers are the links you create in your post. If you don’t know, a link or URL is made by pasting the identifier (URL) of any web story you refer to. The URL is what is clicked to get a reader of the post back to the story.

The process is the same as cutting and pasting any piece of computer-generated text.

Breaking the rules

Creative writing breaks rules. You may want to break some of the rules in the interest of producing your personal style or just to be different. This is how innovation occurs. On the other hand, the rules help get you started, and increase your chances of a smooth process of acceptance of your posts.

Tags

Tags are the DNA elements of your post. They are a way in which search engines latch on to web content and for you to search pages of LWD. Try to capture the story with four or five tags (words or key phrases). Add the tags in a final line:

Blogging, Leaders we deserve, WordPress, copy writing, leadership, global issues would be candidate tags for this page

About yourself
You can provide information briefly about yourself as you might do for any social media site. See posts in LWD for examples. The information is added to the end of the post.

How to submit your proposed post

You can submit your proposed post at present by email [trickards@mbs.ac.uk], or you can send a comment to any LWD post, indicating your interest in providing content for a future post.

To go more deeply

Here’s a current blog dealing with how to write blog posts


Self Publishing. The Future for Would Be Book Writers?

January 4, 2013

First Kindle and now the iPad have revived the dream of self publishing. How realistic is it for would-be authors?

A friend confided in me recently that he was thinking of writing a series of books. He was planning his departure from a high pressure job which has accustomed him to long hours. Leisurely retirement was out of the question.

This guy is no fantasist

I politely heard him out. Then he told me he was taking professional advice and coaching in creative writing. This guy is no fantasist. He may well go down the traditional route of dead tree publishing. There again, he might consider self publishing.

An instructive experiment

One published author recently carried out a test, in which he tried both traditional and tablet variants of publishing simultaneously. OK, methodologically he needed to have found a way of publishing the same book simultaneously and testing for various factors such as price. But the experiment was instructive.

The blog post by David Gauntlett outlines a method of pricing e-books, based on the price of lattes.

Digital transformations – cutting out the middle people – are creeping across the face of academic life… So, I put together a collection of previously-published pieces, revised and with some new material, as a Kindle book. I called it Media Studies 2.0, and Other Battles around the Future of Media Research, and put it on sale for £3.80. (Friends had suggested that I shouldn’t make it too cheap, as that would undermine people’s respect for it. Therefore I settled on £3.80 as a price which I thought sounded somehow quite authoritative whilst still being highly affordable).

I publicised the book via my website and Twitter. On one occasion I noted in a promotional tweet that it was ‘cheaper than two lattes’ (16 September 2011), which seemed like a reasonable way of looking at it.
In the same summer I also had a ‘proper’ book out, Making is Connecting, published by Polity. And for some commercial or bureaucratic reason, Polity have so far failed to come to an agreement with Amazon to make their books available on Kindle. Therefore we arrived at a ‘natural experiment’ where circumstances had conspired to have a Kindle book by me, and a wholly paper-based book by me, newly out at the same time, so that we could compare their fates.

What happened next?

The book published by traditional method is currently outselling the Kindle one. The author lists the methodological weaknesses in his trial. Nevertheless I find this a valuable starting point to consider the future of e-publishing for the pioneering author.

Health warning

Writing is a compulsion that can strike at any time. If you find this blog interesting, check for the tell-tale symptoms of the Midnight Disease [I am writing this at roughly 4 am ].

To go more deeply

The LSE also published earlier interesting reports on e-publishing that are worth following up.

Another experiment

In the interests of market research, I have produced two posts on this topic which provide roughly the same information, but dressed up in different formats and with different titles. They have been tagged identically, and have been published on the same day. [ I have avoided adding media images as these might influence hits.] I will be watching with interest to see over time whether one post attracts more visits, visitors, and ‘likes’, than the other.


Would you buy a book for the price of two lattes?

January 4, 2013

e-Publishing is developing apace. One advocate has established a marketing model based on the exchange price of the cost of a high street coffee

The pricing story was told in a blog published from the venerable London School of Economics or LSE [not to be confused with the London Stock Exchange, also known as the LSE].

The blog post by David Gauntlett describes his experiment and suggests a method of pricing e-books, based on the price of lattes.

Until the mid 1990s, people booked holidays via a travel agent, which seemed normal and fine. Since then, the role of ‘travel agent’ has come to seem weird – why would we want to give an extra slice of money to someone for doing a task which we can easily do for ourselves online?

Similarly, if you needed to sell things that you owned but didn’t want any more, you would naturally have to consult a second hand shopkeeper – and probably get ripped off by them; until we reached the point where you would obviously just do it yourself on eBay.

These kinds of digital transformations – cutting out the middle people – are creeping across the face of academic life, but more slowly than you might expect.
So, I put together a collection of previously-published pieces, revised and with some new material, as a Kindle book. I called it Media Studies 2.0, and Other Battles around the Future of Media Research, and put it on sale for £3.80. (Friends had suggested that I shouldn’t make it too cheap, as that would undermine people’s respect for it. Therefore I settled on £3.80 as a price which I thought sounded somehow quite authoritative whilst still being highly affordable).

I publicised the book via my website and Twitter. On one occasion I noted in a promotional tweet that it was ‘cheaper than two lattes’ (16 September 2011), which seemed like a reasonable way of looking at it.
In the same summer I also had a ‘proper’ book out, Making is Connecting, published by Polity. And for some commercial or bureaucratic reason, Polity have so far failed to come to an agreement with Amazon to make their books available on Kindle. Therefore we arrived at a ‘natural experiment’ where circumstances had conspired to have a Kindle book by me, and a wholly paper-based book by me, newly out at the same time, so that we could compare their fates.

What happened next?

The book published by the traditional method is currently outselling the Kindle one. The author lists the methodological weaknesses in his trial. Nevertheless I find this a valuable starting point to consider the future of e-publishing for the pioneering author

Health warning

Writing is a compulsion that can strike at any time. If you find this blog interesting, check for the tell-tale symptoms of the Midnight Disease [I am writing this at roughly 4 am ].

To go more deeply

The LSE also published earlier reports on e-publishing that are worth following up.

Another experiment

In the interests of market research, I have produced two posts on this topic which provide roughly the same information, but dressed up in different formats and with different titles. They have been tagged identically, and have been published on the same day. [I have avoided adding media images as these might influence hits.] I will be watching with interest to see over time whether one post attracts more visits, visitors, and ‘likes’, than the other.


2012 in review: clever things these helper monkeys

December 31, 2012

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Leaders We Deserve attracts its 150,000th visit of 2012

December 18, 2012

Tudor RickardsLeaders We Deserve will welcome its 150,000th visit of 2012 sometime this week. If you think you know anyone who might enjoy the posts on this site, please pass on the invitation to become one of our 2000 subscribers through our URL http://wp.me/p2C96-2ra

Could you be be person who made the 150,000 visit of 2012 to the site? You can find the answer in the BLOG STATS box, where it will be recorded as o 665,308 hits

Our plans for 2013 include

 3-4 leadership-related posts each week

 Selected posts used as study cases on International Leadership programmes

 More posts supplied or suggested by our subscribers

 Recognition of an author and the posted publication through a wall-display certificate

 Posts written based on subscriber requests

 Continued policy of Ad-free posting

 Subscribers questions welcomed and answered

Many thanks to all our visitors who provided the 150,000 visits, and warmest best wishes for 2013

Tudor Rickards, Editor, Leaders We Deserve


What’s the difference between spam and junk mail?

May 8, 2009
Junk Mail

Junk Mail

What’s the difference between spam and junk mail? Not a lot. We have had an increasing flow of e-garbage on LWD since we started blogging in 2006

Invitations to porn sites, and mysterious computer-generated gibberish have now been joined by brief messages which look like part of a sad little marketing effort after someone has been to a ‘how to drive traffic to your site’ seminar.

The sort of thing I mean

This week there has been a whole bunch of such missives from a suspiciously similar set of senders.

Six today [May 8th 2009]:

autotrader

autotraders

auto

autos

car

cars

Each of the six had sent a terse almost English sentence such as

Gotta love yahoo, very neat website. Thanks alot….[sic]

The spam targetted recent and older posts, with utter disregard of post content.

Dumb bloggers

Has there been yet another of those dumb bloggers suggesting this as a brilliant e-marketing idea to build a business?

It is all very sad. It would be nice to find a win-win way to reduce the flow. The openness of open source for encouraging discussion is one of its appealing features for me, and I am still one step away from introducing a barrier to entry to comments for LWD. Creative solutions welcomed. Maybe if you come across any blog advocating such pathetic advice you could send them this post. A legitimate application of viral marketing, I’d argue.

Acknowledgement

To Joan Harvest with grateful thanks for the junk mail free zone image


Blogging can seriously help your career

February 17, 2008

Blogging in excess can be as harmful as other addictive pastimes. Or it can be something that’s enjoyable and you do for fun. I want to make the case that blogging can seriously help your career

Blogging has become a significant component in the communications game. Blogging can scoop the professional news media, and its whistle-blowers have already scored some notable hits.

A recent example in the UK was reported by the BBC

Blogger Guido Fawkes has claimed the internet’s first ministerial scalp with the resignation of Peter Hain.

As this post was being prepared, we learn how a blog ‘outed’ Prince Harry and ended his stint as a military officer in Afghanistan.

The Boston Globe reported on civic officials and their blogs.

Catching the blogging bug

It’s been just over a year since I caught the blogging bug, with the full addiction following shortly afterwards. At first, I was intrigued by the possibility of a new way of sharing ideas. Later I realized that it was helping me change the way in which I teach and research.

Blogging has brought about the most significant change to my teaching practices since I reluctantly abandoned the paraphernalia of the OHP and transparencies a few years ago.

When I began writing the posts for Leaderswedeserve, the original idea was to take a contemporary issue and summarize it in a single- post, with a few pointers to follow-up sources for student use.

I found that a convenient length for each post was about 800 words. That gave me enough freedom to provide adequate content, and something I could complete at one (or at most two) visits to the keyboard. While there are full-time bloggers able to generate copy each day, a target of three posts a week seemed manageable, and avoided the trap of blogging regardless of whether I was adding some personal insight in every post.

Giving up something else

Each such post now takes me about two to three hours, resulting in 800 words that I’m happy with. I still use preview and edit facilities a lot (these can become compulsive actions).

I now spend about twelve hours a week blogging. As a consequence, I gave up another web-based hobby for a while (playing internet chess), although I am now getting back into playing quick chess as well as blogging.

If I am likely to be away from home-base for a while I prepare a few ‘nearly ready’ blogs in advance, and try to post at least two a week.

How has blogging changed my working life?

One unexpected payoff is that blogging provides an unusual level of serendipitous findings which can be applied elsewhere.

An example: I have a long-running research project into charismatic leadership. From time to time there is a need to prepare a talk or lecture on leadership.

In the past, I would try to set aside some research time and augment this in hotel rooms or during long-distance travelling for reading and thinking and for keeping up through journal subscriptions. Lecture material tended to be generated too close to comfort as a deadline approached, under increasingly urgent reminders from anxious course director or administrators. The main sources of news were early morning newspapers and radio bulletins, and late night catch up (Newsnight, while becoming increasingly strident over the years, at least remained a reliable indication of the media preoccupations of the day).

Now I find I am much more up-to-date in everyday discussions with colleagues, not just on current affairs, but on professionally relevant ideas derived from the secondary investigations triggered. I find myself re-reading the classic articles of organization studies as well as those dealing with leadership.

A draft blog is somewhere to store the various references you found valuable. This work-in-progress turns out to be easier to pick-up and take forward than happened when reference materials were scattered around in notebooks, post-it slips, diaries, and assorted annotated stuff.

Developing writing skills

Another outcome of regular blogging: It’s a great way of honing your writing skills. If you have to produce reports, dissertations, or even books, you are likely to need fluency in producing material on a regular basis. That fluency can be developed by regular practice to practical time constraints. The quality and style can also be improved, but you need constructive feedback. At very least you need to be a good critic to your own work, neither too lenient, not too critical of work in progress.

Making money from blogging

This post is not about making money from blogging. It is possible for part-time hobbies to become money earners. A business model is emerging for such bloggers to study.

This post is directed at to encourage beginners. I found a lot of help and advice via WordPress FAQs.

Rule of thumb: know your commitment level

Level one: You find spend a minimum of three quality time slots of at least an hour preparing your blog each week.

This will be enough to produce one post, including revisions.

Level 2: Minimum of three quality-time slots of one-to two hours, and additional fill-in time to produce two posts every week, and some ‘work in progress on a third. Time needed is likely to be ten to twenty hours, which most people will have to manage around many other conflicting time demands.

Level 3: Becoming a professional. I have no ambition in this direction, as I can see the effort and skill required. I’m sure it will require daily efforts, and maybe demanding weekly hours on a par with other professional disciplines (say fifty hours a week minimum).

Can a blog become a book?

Yeeees. Just about. Technically it’s quite easy. One or two bloggers have claimed to be en route to a traditional book. A few best-selling authors are experimenting with blogs (just as musicians are experimenting with web-based production models for distributing their work).

A regular blogger might be expected to generate some hundred thousand words a year, which is the scale of a 300 page text-book. You will have built-in tags to the blog posts, and these provide the raw materials for a good index system . So in principle, a blog can be turned into a book.

An interesting possibility is team blogging, in which a group of authors co-edit and write the blog which then is turned into a collection of chapters in a traditional edited text.

But why go down that route to produce a traditional book?

Regular blog posts are not dissimilar to the old-style diary, sometimes written with more than one eye on eventual publication. Furthermore, blog posts are easier to cut, paste, revise, annotate, than most first drafts. Even final drafts submitted to publishers often do not reach the level of revision required for coherence, and style, regardless of intellectual rigour.

In summary, the work you put into a blog post is a useful discipline towards the content of a first draft of a book. It also means you are not under the same pressure from a publisher to work to a deadline until long after you have most of the material to hand. However, it helps if you have been writing a blog with the intention of turning it into a book. That way you take different planning decisions about what to blog about.

Personal Therapy

Much blogging is personal therapy. You can argue it as personal development. Or exhibitionism. Sometimes it can be compulsive. Or tiresome. Or seriously disturbed and disturbing. Sometimes reading a blog leaves me with those feelings produced when I find myself watching celebrity reality shows. And, anyway, as with the shows, you can always click out of the scene and do something else …

Blogging and your career

I have hinted how blogging may trigger a compulsive side of a personality. On the other hand, like music, love, mathematics, chess, sport, and toad watching, it has the power to make you happy.

But can it seriously improve your career? Maybe you are a superstar waiting to be discovered by the blogging world, and through that revealed as an exceptional talent in ways that enhance your career. But let’s get real. One in a zillion authors becomes best-sellers. It is more likely will find a lot of pleasure from blogging, or you will move on to something else.

There are exciting career opportunities through blogging. Perhaps you be among their number.

On the other hand, blogging may seriously damage your career. (Although it seems to me that some of the whistle-blowers and moles may be at some level wanting out, and wanting to be outed.

Best bloggers

The following from WordPress guidance for bloggers:

Best Bloggers hook you. They have drawn you in from the first sentence. That can happen in as many ways as there are imaginations, but it never, ever means this sort of beginning: Sorry I haven’t blogged in so long, but I’ve been busy. Or Not much to say, but I don’t have anything else to do but blog. A Best Blogger has got something to say, and they make you want to hear it.

Best Bloggers know how to use the tools at their disposal. Mostly, that means they’re good at the language in which they blog. Their writing is clear and sharp, they can punctuate, they proofread, and they sound like the smart people they are.
Best Bloggers are generous. They know there’s room for everyone. They know that another great blog in no way diminishes them. They link to people they admire, regardless of whether that other blog is bigger or smaller than they are.

Acknowledgements

To friends, colleagues, and the blogging community. Special thanks goes to black-belt social networker Paul Carruthers, who got me started.