Blog tips for JETs

By Tristan Vick

When I first received my contracting organization’s welcome letter I emailed my supervisor a link to my online blog. After all, I have been blogging about Japan and Japanese culture for over four years, and although I consider myself a hobbyist, I thought my employers should know a little bit about my love and passion for Japan. My advisor still checks my blog updates regularly and lets me know his opinion. My students are aware that half the images I take of them will probably end up on my blog. It is still my right to express myself and my feelings as I share my life quite openly for others, but it’s also my responsibility not to injure anyone else’s feelings in the process.

Not so unlike the blogger who recently stirred up Japanese sensitivity (CLAIR NEWS, April 20th edition, page 5), I find that I too post everything which interests me about Japan, the good and the bad. Granted, the first thing we need to realize about blogs/blogging is that it is not a traditional medium. It is cutting edge, and because of this new sharpness many people don’t realize that as a new medium of expression they are putting themselves into a situation of having to answer for their personal feelings and opinions made public. The bottom line is, if you don’t want to be challenged for your personal beliefs then keep a traditional diary. Put your thoughts down with pen and ink and lock up the book when you’re done. Otherwise keep your offensive thoughts to yourself. My mom always used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.” I think this motherly advice definitely applies to blogging as well.

But we can’t pre-guess everyone’s disposition before we blog, so I have created a short list from my extensive writing experience of what I find necessary in keeping in mind every time I post a blog or write an article. Blogging is a publicly published medium, and as such has certain rules and regulations which apply to its unique traits. Hopefully this list of blogging tips will aid some of you in enhancing your own blog content and blogging experience.

10 BENEFICIAL BLOGGING TIPS

1. INTENT
Am I expressing an opinion/thought or simply reporting on something? What’s my focus? Am I writing random musings or do I have a goal, something to say? For example, is my blog about: “My Random Thoughts,” or “Strange Dreams I’ve Had about Frogs,” or is it more topical, i.e. “My Life in Tokyo,” “My Japan Adventure,” etc.

2. SUBJECT MATTER
Is my topic something I like or something which puts me off? Is my blog and or blog topic aimed at a specific demographic? Does it make a point or am I only rambling? Limit the rambling.

3. CREDIBILITY
Am I portraying it accurately, do I have my terminology right, are my depictions accurate, and do I have my references and citations where needed?

4. RESPECT
Is my content respectful? Is my critique respectful? Am I being provocative or sociable? Try to be more sociable.

5. CONTENT
Do my pictures and other content (including podcasts, etc.) better enhance the blogging experience? Does my additional content meet the respectability prerequisite?

6. MANNERS & ETIQUETTE
Does my blog keep in tone with representing my topic in a respectable light? If not, is my argument well supported by a worthy defense? Is my complaint in anyway justified? Am I in keeping with proper etiquette, i.e. Netiquette (online forums/blog/web-journal etiquette guidelines), the journalistic code, etc? Or am I only being insensitive? Cut out the insensitivity and be more cordial.

7. CLARITY
Is my opinion stated clearly so people know that it’s just an opinion? Are my thoughts and sentences clear? Am I repeating myself too much to emphasize a point? Is my style and technique presented professionally as possible? Being artistic is fine as long as whatever I’m attempting is clear to the reader/viewer.

8. AUDIENCE
Is anyone going to be offended by my opinion and what I have said or said about them and their culture? If so, was it necessary to make a point or am I in danger of being libelous and rude? Cut out the prejudice.

9. PERSPECTIVE
As an outsider is my perspective in complimentary terms, am I making a compare and contrast with relevance based upon my own experience in distinction to my own culture, or am I only nagging? Cut out the nagging.

10. VERDICT
Is my blog something everyone will enjoy and appreciate? Or am I trying to influence people into making an obligatory judgment call about either me or my subject matter? If anything is lacking, offensive, or defamatory, then go back to square one and start from scratch until you get it right.

These are just a few of the things to consider when blogging. Whether you are a hobbyist like me, or have dreams and aspirations of becoming a professional blog journalist, I think these ten things are vital when considering whether your blogging is productive or destructive. And when in doubt, it’s best to listen to our mothers.

Note from the editors:

Tristan Vick is a Hiroshima JET who enjoys blogging about his daily adventures in Japan. You can find the detailed chronicles of his time and life in Japan at his online blog: www.swirlymuffins.blogspot.com.