Annual Report: Blogging Historians’ Works
by Jack Le Moine
Writing your own is hard work; serializing another’s is hard, too. Here’s what’s involved.
I. Selection: an important event or topic; an important historian who wrote about that; what part of that historian’s book to use. Lots of time. Using anthologies of historical works helps.
II. Getting text ready for use. Whether scanning text yourself or using text already scanned (looking at you gutenberg.org) optical readers still lack accuracy. I’ve got to go over every word and make necessary corrections. For already scanned files, remove unnecessary carriage returns so that your text can be responsive to any device including cell phones.
III. Footnotes: putting them at the bottom of the page or at the end of the book is so last 20th. century. Modern devices make them too difficult to access. Too much back and forth. Making footnotes pop-ups is one way but that demands my readers disable their pop-up blockers. My way is to place them at the end of the paragraph using different color highlights. The reader can either read them or just scroll past them. — Sometimes the best parts of a book are in it’s footnotes.
IV. Assigning Categories, Tags (for WordPress), or Labels (for Blogger). I use Categories as a Table of Contents and Tags as an Index. Tags have prefixes:
- a = authors
- c = countries
- n = person names
- p = places
- s = series
These prefixes group tags for similar information. Other tags such as years and historical labels do not have prefixes.
V. Scheduling. Since the goal of History Moments is to publish something new each day, an Excel spreadsheet is used. Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays are for selections from works of historians. Tuesdays is for complete works of just one tip top historian. Thursdays are for humor or for inspirational quotes. Fridays are for my own essays. Saturdays are for latest developments in history.
VI. Extra information gathered. The author and the book excerpted. The year the book was published. URL for more info on the author. Time and place of event. These all made available to the reader, adding value to my posts.
VII. Graphic images. These need to be selected from reliable sources so we do not violate copyright laws. Then they need to be downloaded and compacted through a graphics program in order to fit into the blog. Captions need to be written to identify the image to the reader and to identify the source and legal basis for publication. Then they are uploaded and refined through WordPress’ media tools.
VIII. More information offered for the reader who wants to pursue the topic in greater depth. My posts offer at least 2 links to internet sites and a book link to Amazon which allows the reader to look for other, related books on the topic. In addition, I try to find a video on YouTube that relates to the topic. These additional resources allow the reader to obtain the latest information on the topic.
IX. The template. All of the information in steps VI through VIII have to be displayed in the final post. Three types of templates are used: one for the first of a series to introduce the topic; a middle one; and a concluding one. I collect the information in Excel and use mailmerge to send the info over to Word templates. The templates have placeholders to inserting the excerpts from the selections and for navigation bars.
X. 5 minute stories. I use Word’s word count feature to chop the selections into 1,000 word excerpts.
XI. Output Files. The templates are copied into an output file. They are replicated to populate the number of posts for each selection. For example, a 7,000 word selection = to 7 days worth of posts. The output file will have the introductory template, the concluding template, and the middle template replicated to 5 times. The 1,000 word excerpts are then dropped into the templates.
XII. Inserting into the blog. Titles are assigned to each post. Simply using “Part 1″, Part 2” and etc. are the lazy way of doing this. I prefer titles that indicate the content of each post. Using blog inputs for scheduling, categories, and tabs must be attended to. Then the copy and paste of the word output file. Quality assurance (QA) by checking the blog post for any problems.
XIII. Post-production navigation issues. How does your reader navigate from post to post within your series? How about posts yet to be published? I use a series tag specific to that series and link to that. Eventually all of the posts of a series are published and I update to a navigation bar. The left button on the bar “Previous” calls up the post in the series preceding the current one. The middle “Master” button calls up all of the posts in the series. The right button on the bar “Next” — well you get the idea.
XIV. Promotion. Social media announcements are good. Automated social media are limited in both reach and content. I watched trailers for movies and tv shows. They show limited scenes from the show but also provide narrative to hook the watcher’s attention. Yes, more work and it seems to be writing on sand. I use Google’s Collections to archive all my social media announcements in one place for possible future use. As for reach, look into groups on Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and others.
Serializing works from the great historians of the past may seem easy. Judge for yourself. The importance is to increase public awareness of our great heritage from history’s best.