The benefits of publicness

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

My YouTube videos and comments now show my real name.

I recently made the move of switching my usernames on various websites to be my real name. Previously, many websites I went on used the name “Zagorath”, or some form of it, like LOTRzagorath which I used on YouTube. Most notably, I linked my YouTube with my Google+ so that it is now using my real name for comments and uploads, and I changed from @zagorath to @jimcullenaus on Twitter.

But why would I go to the effort of making the change, potentially losing recognition among the few people that have come to know me (a few smaller YouTubers, particularly, on whose videos I regularly comment), and gaining a longer Twitter name?

For me, the main reason is simply consistency. I have a Google+ account tied to my real name, and I wanted the benefits of linking my YouTube account to that. In addition, I liked the idea that people could see my real name on both, so it was immediately clear that they were the same person. This second reason is also part of the benefit of changing Twitter along with them. Previously many of my accounts online could be split into two categories: those where I used my real name, and those where I used the handle Zagorath (or some variation thereof). Facebook, email, and Google accounts were probably the only ones that fall into the former category, while most others used Zagorath. However, even for this latter group, it has always been easy to find out my real name because in many cases that same account had my real name entered into another field. The best example of this is my Twitter account, where my real name has always been visible along with the handle.

Other than that, I believe that by using my real name people will be able to trust in what I have to say. By knowing this is a real person attaching their real name to what they do, I believe people will be less inclined to subconsciously discount or devalue what I have to say because of my anonymity.

Over time, I’ll see about changing over what I haven’t already changed (this blog, for example—Wordpress does not allow you to change your username, although you can change the URL), but for the moment I’ve made the changes on the majority of the accounts that I use regularly that I would wish to change

After I had drafted most of this post, I realised that this was something journalist and advocate of openness Jeff Jarvis (who I know from the This Week in Google podcast he co-hosts weekly on the TWiT Network) probably had something to say about, so I did a quick search and it turns out he’s done a post with the exact same title. His post is a far better one at actually describing the general benefits of being public and open. It’s a brilliant read, based on a chapter from his book “Public Parts” which—from what little I’ve read about it—looks like a really enlightening book. That post brings up some great benefits to publicness in a more general sense, and talks about being public not necessarily (or, not only) with your name, but with sharing information and knowledge in a public and open way. It’s a sentiment I can definitely agree with.

I definitely see the advantage of anonymity. It can allow people to express unpopular viewpoints without fear of potential retribution—social, political, or otherwise—but for me personally I think the benefits of publicness outweigh the negatives.

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The effect of blogging on people’s writing ability

This is a blog post that originated from when I wrote for The Teen Geek, a website that has now been discontinued. I then cross posted it onto my Tumblr, before I gave up on that service.

This is my first blog post here, and effectively my first ever, so I thought it would be fitting to write a blog about blogging. Or, specifically, the effects that blogging can have on your ability to write.

Probably the most obvious effect it’s going to have is on your grammar—especially with regards to diction and punctuation. It stands to reason that if you are practicing using all those skills that you learnt in primary school, you’re going to get better at using them. If a writer is treating their blog in a formal or semi-formal manner, and doing their best to use correct grammar, then they will gradually, with the help of constructive feedback from their readers, improve in their writing skills.

Writing a blog may also help you with your ability to research and cite information. Another great tool for this purpose is Wikipedia. (I myself write for Wikipedia from time-to-time, and have even created a whole article.)

However, it is possible for blog writing to have a negative effect. This is particularly true if they rely too heavily on spell-check, and the ever-more accurate grammar-checks that modern word processors (such as Microsoft Office Word) have.

I think that it’s important for people to always treat their writing with pride, and no matter what they’re doing, they should try to produce a work of the best quality possible. The only exceptions I see for this are microblogs, where people need to keep the text as short as possible. If people follow this relatively simple rule, they can expect not only to see their writing abilities improve, but also they will likely get more positive reviews, and they will begin to see more traffic.

On the other side of the coin, reading other peoples’ blogs can also help to improve your writing ability in much the same way as listening to a wide variety of music will help a composer, or looking at a lot of artwork from various artists will prove beneficial to an artist.

As blogger and freelance writer Michael Kwan says in one of his blogs, about how to improve your writing:

If all you do is restrain yourself to your own little mental world, you probably won’t improve your writing. In addition to all the writing I do each day, I also do a fair bit of reading. I check out dozens of other blogs on the Internet, I read plenty of tech news through the usual sources, and I check up on the local paper to see what’s happening in the world beyond the blogosphere. Just through pure osmosis, you will start to collect certain ideas and styles that you can integrate into your own writing. This is particularly useful for people who have English as a second language, because it exposes you to the little nuances that they may not teach you in formal English training.

And he is absolutely right. Your writing will improve dramatically if you read other peoples’ blogs—and other forms of writing—because you will take some ideas from the writing of each different person. Gradually you will build up your own writing voice.

As a final point, blogging often will also build your own confidence; if you are getting some good feedback; and this can help you in all areas of life, from your future blogs, to getting a job, to asking a girl out.

Remember to listen to any feedback you get, positive feedback will boost your confidence, while negative (but constructive) feedback will help you improve your writing, so you can do a better job next time.

As this is my first blog, I’m going to request feedback from anyone who reads this. I really do need to know how this is. Any sort of feedback would be much appreciated. The same will apply to any later posts I leave.

I’m still, by the way, interested in any feedback you have on this.

Problems with WordPress

About two weeks or so ago now, I was working on another blog post about the power of a tool named Prey. Months ago, I created a draft post where I posted a link to an interesting story regarding Prey, and then left for a while.

When I came back to work on it again, I was working for a couple of hours, and I had pretty much finished. I decided it was best to save it, even though I know WordPress should autosave anyway. It was at this point that I experienced a problem… Continue reading

A review of three blogging websites, or, I’ve moved: again

So, I’ve moved my blog again. I decided to move my blog from WordPress, at https://zagorath.wordpress.com to Google’s Blogger, at http://zagorath.blogspot.com. The reasons for this are simple: WordPress is not. I found WordPress to be far too complicated for my uses. It was way too complicated for me.

When I was using Tumblr, I loved how easy it was to customise and edit the design. It was, however, lacking some very noticeable things. There was absolutely no in-built comment system, and no clear method for RSS. The problem with Tumblr is that it’s not really a conventional blog system. It’s not open enough. Tumblr is made to be used by people in Tumblr — it’s a closed system, more of a social networking site than a blogging site. And because of that, I couldn’t really use it for my blog.
So then I switched to WordPress. WordPress is an incredibly powerful blogging tool, and it is also amazingly customisable. But that’s the problem. It’s far too powerful, and too confusing for me. With WordPress, you pretty much have the option of using an in-built theme, or going all-out and creating your own. It’s very difficult to make many small changes. Most themes don’t even allow you to have a custom background. While I’m sure WordPress would be far superior for a serious blogger, or a web developer or something, for me, it’s just far too complicated.
So that brings me to my current situation. I’m currently using Blogger. I already have a Google account, so it was really easy to set up. I’ve now got the advantage of being able to more easily customise my blog. For me, one disadvantage is that there are no “categories”, only labels, which do the same thing as tags. Another problem is that it seems much more complicated to get Blogger to automatically Tweet with a new blog post. It has the added advantage, however, of allowing readers to comment using a variety of logins, including their WordPress accounts, should they chose to use them.
As always, I encourage any feedback on this that you may have. What have been your experiences with any of these three blogging tools, or any others you may have come across?