Posted by: Long Huynh | April 29, 2009

100 Days to a Better Blog – Part 1

I started this Blog on April 3, 2009. Not quite on an impulse but also not based on any rational reasoning (except perhaps for some fleeting thought that it should not be on April’s Fool day). According to my 100-day plan, I should conclude my Better Blog project on July 11, 2009, with April 15 and June 26 being the end dates for Stage 1 (Initiation) and Stage 2 (Execution) respectively. That April 15 date has come and gone 2 weeks ago, but I am OK with that since I did reflect upon intents, expectations, goals, objectives and success factors; I just didn’t think to put them down as I would for a serious project. This action (or inaction) will be the subject of Lessons Learned in Stage 3 (Conclusion).

As mentioned earlier in the Introductory post, I would have to perform the following 2 steps in the Initiation stage:

  1. Clarify intents and expectations
  2. Set goals, objectives and success factors

Step 1 – Clarify intents and expectations

Why should I clarify Intents and Expectations first?

All projects started with good intents and high expectations. Many of them however gradually strayed from the original intents and never quite met the expectations despite all the care and effort invested in the projects. The main reason for this is that intents and expectations were seldom documented, especially when the project delivery party and the intended beneficiary were one and the same. It wouldn’t be so bad if intents and expectations stayed pretty much the same throughout the project or if the project manager had a way to stay intimately in tune with the client. Otherwise, the project became risky because intents and expectations, especially the latter one, did change over time. For most cases, the 2 parties are separate entities, thus a clarification of intents and expectations at the outset would ensure a meeting of the minds before plans are plotted and actions are taken.

What do I mean by Intent?
While even the dictionary [Ref. 1] stated that intention, intent, purpose, goal, end, aim, object, objective are synonyms: these nouns refer to what one plans to do or achieve”, there are some nuance among them:
  • Intent is defined as having the mind and will focused on a specific purpose. Its Latin root is intendere, meaning to direct attention. It is the stronger form of Intention which is defined as a course of action that one proposes to follow.
  • Goal is defined as the end, the destination, the finish line. It suggests an idealistic or long-term purpose.
  • Objective is defined by [Ref. 2] as: 1) the clearly defined, decisive, and attainable goals towards which every military operation should be directed; and 2) the specific target of the action taken.

So you can see that even before I set my goals and objectives for the project, somehow I have already the mind and will to do it, and more relevant to the issue of potentially misreading the original intents, I have already sketched a rough course of action to follow.

What are my Intents?
My intents when starting this blog were:
  1.  To learn about this aspect of social media (blogging) – for my professional needs
  2.  To share my experiences with others who have a need to learn – for my social needs
  3.  To leverage and benefit from this new (to me) marketing channel – for my personal needs

In other words, I planned (my intention was) to invest a certain amount of my time – say 2-4 hours a day to build up a presence on the Web, to take part in the Social Networking trend, first as a follower then as a leader in certain fields or subjects where my points of view may be of help to others, namely the IT field and the Leadership experiences in that field (a proposed course of action). For more details on this, please take a look at the About page.

What are my Expectations?
My original expectations (i.e. prospects of success or gain) were to achieve a certain presence and reputation in my chosen niche (i.e. blogs about IT Leadership & Management) and be recognized as a critical thinker with insight and wisdom to share, not a mere interpreter of events or aggregator of data. Being present also means at or near the top of the mindshare of the IT Leaders, especially those who may need advisory services beyond the blog.

However, having acquired more market intelligence since, I have toned down my expectations. First of all, my time horizon for this to happen now stretches out to 2 years, and the means to achieve them is not by a single and sustained drive but through a series of project with their incremental objectives.

As you can see, intents and expectations once articulated can be easily translated into goals and objectives. But expectations do change, especially when perception of reality demonstrates a potential gap against such expectations. Without being aware of such change, the project runs the risk of attaining the presumed goals and objectives without satisfying the expected needs. This phenomenon explains why some successfully completed projects were never implemented (Note: I have no number to substantiate this claim. Input is appreciated).

Step 2 – Set goals, objectives and success factors

Because Intents and Expectations are soft, hard-to-pin-down types of measure, we usually translate them into Goals (long-range purpose) and Objectives (specific targets).

What are this Project’s Goals & Objectives?
The long-term Goal of this project (as well as other projects that would follow in the same series within the next 2 years) are to be in the Top 20 blogs in the field/subject of IT Leadership & Management (presence) and to win some awards (recognition) such as the Blogger’s Choice Award or Weblog Award.

The Objectives (or short-term Goal) of this project is to achieve 50 post submissions and receive 100 comments from 10 frequent readers.

Why 50 posts? The first measure of success for me is how can I produce quality posts in a sustained fashion. That means at least 3 per week for 14.3 weeks (100 days), with some odd ones thrown in here and there. I have written so far an average of 2 posts per week, so there is some catch-up to do.

Why 100 comments? The second measure is the feedback received from the readers. I read somewhere that the average rate of comment is about 2% of the page views, so 100 comments are the equivalent of 5,000 page views that I need to reach in 100 days. But to me, page views are indicative of the traffic while comments are indicative of the interest. I elect to measure the latter (I am not sure how exactly, but I will investigate). Again, I have received just a handful of them thus far (so few that I can count them all by hand), so there is a steep curve to climb for the remaining 72 days.

Why 10 regular readers? The third measure is the number of readers themselves. I recognize that many do/will have an interest in my blog but are/will be hesitant to write back. It seems that a simple “Great/interesting post!” comment wouldn’t sound good enough to send. So while the number of comments is indicative of the interest, I need a measure of the number of readers and that would be the RSS Feed number. If you read this post so far, please click on the RSS Feed button to receive fresh posts. Now why 10? I arrive at this number by making an assumption that my readers are keener that the average visitor, in fact 10 times keener to the tune of 20% instead of 2% making comments. It would take then 10 readers to make the targeted 2 comments per post.

What are other success factors, if any?
Let’s say that by the end of this 100-day project (July 11), I have written 52 posts, received 86 comments and counted 12 regular readers. Would I declare then a success (mind you, with a small asterisk next to the less-than-100 comments)? It depends. What if I can honestly say that only 45 of those 52 posts are real quality ones (i.e. insightful, provocative, critical, beyond-the-obvious) and the rest were just fillers to make the number? What if I know of 10 additional readers-friends who swear that they visited the Blog regularly without leaving any trace? What if 2 of those registered readers are the “movers and shakers” of blogsphere such as ProBlogger’s Darren Rowse (nice dream!)? So beyond the target numbers, there are also the intangible factors of Quality, Strategic Impact and so on.

I will leave you with that thought and would like to solicit your comments. What are other success factors that count for you?

__________________________________________________________________________________________ 

[Ref. 1] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
[Ref. 2] The Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. US Department of Defense 2005.

 

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Responses

  1. […] 100 Days to a Better Blog – Part 1 […]

  2. Well you got one regular reader here. You have laid out in a no nonsense way a quality plan for building a better blog. I think your objective are very attainable and beneficial for anyone wanting to build a blog. I have been working on my blog regularly for about a month and have 1 regular reader that is a close friend. So he is not like someone that thought I was a genius. I look forward to seeing your updates


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