Reader Discussion – How can I make Urban Monk better for you?

It’s time for a reader question and a small rant!

Today marks a special anniversary Urban Monk (sort of) turns one year old today! I just realised my first blog post was at this time last year, but it was more of trial run; a day before that I decided to find out what all this blogging stuff is about.

The first article was poorly written, hastily typed out – I just wanted something to put up to test the WordPress system. I didn’t even know anything about proper blogging, RSS, or social bookmarking. It took me months to get up to date.

I consider May to be the proper start of the blog – February was the night Daddy put on a Barry White CD with a mischievous glint in his eye; May was when the baby came into the world screaming and crying. Still, today is a fantastic (sort of) milestone.

To celebrate this, I am stealing an idea from Darren Rowse of Problogger – what can I do to make this blog better for you?

Some discussion topics

I’ll leave it open for discussion, but like Darren said, a few general areas to stimulate discussion will be helpful:

Topics – What kind of posts do you want to see in the coming year? What are the main issues you are struggling with?

As a sneak preview, I’ve roughly planned these series:

  • Thoughts and mental mastery (already begun)
  • Advanced emotional mastery
  • Changing behaviours and habits
  • Passion and purpose in life
  • The dangers and obstacles of self-help

Types of posts – standard posts, story telling posts, poetic style posts, reader discussions, product reviews (only the best ones that I personally use), group writing projects / memes?

I’ve deliberately mixed up the past few posts to provide a range of writing styles and topics:

  • The Importance of Overcoming Guilt – pretty much “standard” style and material.
  • The Beauty of Impermanency – A little more esoteric, less practical, and more of a musing than anything. The writing style was also different; I focused more on story telling and mood.
  • 4 Social Psychology Techniques – a return to the “urban” side, which I realised I’ve been neglecting. A slightly different writing style as well, more casual.
  • The Art of Cognitive Reframing – purely practical and exercise based. Writing style is slightly more scientific, given that it is based on psychology.
  • 7 Random and Weird things about me – more fun than anything else. I’ve heard that some people prefer a good ratio of posts like these; too many serious posts can turn them off. What would a good ratio of fun-to-serious be?

Posting Frequency and length – too many posts? Too little? Too long, too short? How long can I go without posting before you abandon me?

Blog Features – any features you would like to see?

Community – do you connect with other readers? I don’t feel the time is right to open up forums, although it is a possibility in the future.

Strengths and weaknesses – what don’t you like about the blog? What do you love most? What works and doesn’t work for you?

Design – Do you like the look and feel of the blog? Anything you don’t like, can be improved?

Anything goes – anything else, big or small, is welcome.

Any feedback is welcome, as long as it’s courteous.

Valentines Day blues

If anyone is suffering from the blues, Loneliness the Beginning of Romance is just for you; I wrote it during a time ofwell you can guess. Very misunderstood article, I dont know why. See if it works for you.

Subscribe to Comments

Some people have also asked about the “subscribe to comments” plugin – a very useful little tool for building community, for it lets readers get email updates of any new comments in a post.

My apologies for taking it off, but I think someone hacked into it and started using it to send spam or something. I get hundreds of bounce backs and error emails, spent days trying to fix it, and when even tech support came back clueless, I just decided to turn it off. Maybe I’ll switch to a new hosting company, but that would mean my site would be down for a few days.

Link Love

No proper link love today, but a few people have asked me about my practice of including sections like these at the end of my posts.

The main reason was to make blogging a community. A link is like a little “hello” or a “thank you” to a fellow blogger, for it sends readers and links. Sometimes I love their work, sometimes they’re friends, sometimes I feel my readers will benefit. I also have a feeling it’s a sort of blogger etiquette (could be wrong though) – it’s somewhat snobby if you don’t link out once in a while.

I struggled to link out in the early days of blogging though, as I thought the only way to do it was in the middle of a post – which pretty much requires relevancy. I don’t read other blogs much, so I struggled to find relevant material that went with my content.

So I tried making admin personal posts, where I put up some personal rant, notices and updates, and also highlight some blogs I liked. I decided to cut down on those because I wanted to keep a good ratio of content to noise.

So I finally started these link love sections. They come at the end of a post, so I keep my ratio of content. I don’t lose readers half-way through a post if they click away. I think this idea is starting to take off in the blogosphere, so that’s something I can tell my grandkids about in the future