Top five rules for blogging: #3 write lists

Here are all five tips, and here’s my post on the first one, and here’s the second one.

I think this post is perhaps best expressed in list form… here’s a list I wrote some time ago about why I write lists, and another almost identical post that in turn is almost identical to this one.

And here’s why you should write them if you want your blog to keep going.

  1. Lists are quick and easy. They’re good for keeping momentum. If in doubt write a list.
  2. Lists kill writer’s block.
  3. Lists encourage discussion – nobody ever agrees with what you’ve included or the order in which you include it.
  4. Lists are linkbait – they get shared. My most amazing day of traffic ever came from a list.
  5. Lists allow you to share unfinished ideas in batches.
  6. Lists force you to structure your thoughts in a succinct manner. They’re good for the reader as well. I’ll read lists that come through my RSS feeds every time. They offer a good return on reader investment.

100 Rules for Service

CafeDave posted a link to the first half of this series the other day.

The next half is up.

Here are my favourites.

  1. Do not let anyone enter the restaurant without a warm greeting.
  2. Do not lead the witness with, “Bottled water or just tap?” Both are fine. Remain neutral.
  3. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.
  4. Never say “I don’t know” to any question without following with, “I’ll find out.”
  5. Do not touch the rim of a water glass. Or any other glass.
  6. Never serve anything that looks creepy or runny or wrong.
  7. If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill. It has the year, the vintner, the importer, etc.
  8. Never touch a customer. No excuses. Do not do it. Do not brush them, move them, wipe them or dust them.
  9. Never remove a plate full of food without asking what went wrong. Obviously, something went wrong.
  10. Never mention the tip, unless asked.
  11. Never say, “Good choice,” implying that other choices are bad.
  12. Never reek from perfume or cigarettes. People want to smell the food and beverage.
  13. Never patronize a guest who has a complaint or suggestion; listen, take it seriously, address it.
  14. Never play a radio station with commercials or news or talking of any kind.
  15. Do not play an entire CD of any artist. If someone doesn’t like Frightened Rabbit or Michael Bublé, you have just ruined a meal.
  16. If a guest goes gaga over a particular dish, get the recipe for him or her.
  17. Do not wear too much makeup or jewelry. You know you have too much jewelry when it jingles and/or draws comments.
  18. Do not race around the dining room as if there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency. (Unless there is a fire in the kitchen or a medical emergency.)
  19. Do not ignore a table because it is not your table. Stop, look, listen, lend a hand. (Whether tips are pooled or not.)
  20. Do not show frustration. Your only mission is to serve. Be patient. It is not easy.

Most of the principles underlying these 20 tips (and many of the others) are easily transferable to any career or service – and can be applied to the way we treat guests at home, or at church.

Mikey has a good post about good dining manners that’s a useful addition to this one.

Five reasons to write lists

  1. Traffic. If there’s one thing I learned from the last week it’s that lists work. Every “how to write a better blog” post I read suggests writing lists.
  2. They’re easy – lists are the easiest of posts to write. You start with a half baked idea and build.
  3. They’re easy to read – the structure is nice, points are enumerated,   discussion is easier.
  4. They’re finite – the reader knows what they’re getting. You know where to stop.
  5. They’re controversial – lists start discussions. That’s why magazines have had “top 100” features forever. People have different ideas about what shouldn’t be on the list – or thoughts as to why your list is wrong.

There’s a great article here about why “lists of n things” are such popular fodder. You should read it.

Some quotes…

Structurally, the list of n things is a degenerate case of essay. An essay can go anywhere the writer wants. In a list of n things the writer agrees to constrain himself to a collection of points of roughly equal importance, and he tells the reader explicitly what they are.

It’s fine to put “The” before the number [in the title] if you really believe you’ve made an exhaustive list. But evidence suggests most things with titles like this are linkbait.

Lists are in. They are great Internet fodder. If you want to get discussion happening about something – write a list.

Five things that would make atheists seem nicer

I am trying really hard to cut down on generalising and bagging out “atheists” rather than specific people and streams of atheism.

They’re not all the same – and they aren’t all out to eat your babies. But atheists (general) keep giving me reason to think bad thoughts about them. Like the two who hijack this thread on Communicate Jesus.

Here are five tips for my atheist friends to help them seem nicer and more reasonable.

  1. Stop being so smug.
  2. Don’t assume every piece of Christian evangelism is directed at you – we want the undecideds, not the decided-uns.
  3. Admit that the debate about God’s existence is complex – and that it can, depending on your presuppositions, be quite possible for intelligent and rational people to intelligently believe in an intervening deity who communicates through a book.
  4. Admit that the scientific method – which by its nature relies on induction rather than deduction (starting with a hypothesis and testing it rather than observing facts and forming a hypothesis) – is as open to abuse as any religious belief, and is neither objective nor infallible.
  5. Try to deal with the actual notions of God seriously believed in by millions of people rather than inventing strawmen (or spaghetti monsters) to dismiss the concepts of God – and deal with the Bible paying attention to context and the broader Christological narrative rather than quoting obscure Old Testament laws. By all means quote the laws when they are applied incorrectly by “Christians” – but understand how they’re meant to work before dealing with the Christians described in point 3.

5 things I’m going to do on holidays

Robyn and I are on holiday for a week next week. We’re going to the Sunshine Coast. In the spirit of Ben’s listmania here are the five activities I’m looking forward to (the fact that I’m spending time with my wife is implied):

1. Sleeping In
2. Going to the beach (a real one, with waves)
3. Reading books
4. Searching for coffee
5. Taking photos

Hi five

Ben is top 5-ing all week this week. I’m looking forward to his lists of awesomeness.

I’ll join the fun.

Here are my five favourite posts from elsewhere this week (in no particular order):

1. Ali’s post on how to catch a koala – I didn’t think it was that challenging, a rock and a big net would have been all I’d have used.

2. Ben’s post about signing off letters (and his one about the etiquette of extracting oneself from annoying conversations)

3. Simone’s post about how to make mud pie

4. Izaac’s post about bad bible jokes.

5. Justin for his posts tracking notable quotes from “Inspiring People” a mission running in Sydney

Five types of bloggers

I’ve been thinking a bit about the nature of blogging. I love blogging, and I love reading blogs. It seems to me that in most of the spheres in which I read blogs there are just five types of blogger.

These spheres – if you’re interested – are (on the basis of the names of categories in my Google Reader subscriptions) – People, Christianity, Coffee, How To, Humour, Gadget, Bargains, Web, and News.

The five types of blogger are “The Creator”, “The Curator”, “The Aggregator”, “The Commentator”, and “The Journaller.” There are probably more – and some blogs are mixes of both – I think I’m probably a mixture of all three.

The Creator

The Creator is perhaps the most exciting kind of blogger – they put up new material, their own thoughts, pictures, products, designs and concepts. They are read for their brilliance and because they supply ideas that keep the blogosphere afloat through generating spin off discussions and things that people want to link to.

The Curator

The Appreciator is a blogger who collects the best bits of thoughts and things from around the blogosphere and collates them – different to “The Aggregator” in that their topics can be wide and varied “The Appreciator” tends to provide a picture of themselves based on what it is they curate.

The Aggregator

Like the Appreciator but with a much more defined scope – Aggregators focus on a particular topic and go looking around the interwebs for material along a theme – in many cases they’ll be creators/aggregators providing their own content but more often featuring things from elsewhere.

The Commentator

Commentators are a bit like Journallers but they’re more opinionated – and more likely to make comment on current events than on their own circumstances. Some provide entertaining observations on life around them (rather than their own lives).

The Journaller

Journallers use their blogs as a journal – they don’t tend to care if people are reading or not and their content is usually of a reflective, personal or ranty nature and based on day to day life.

Journallers are also the most likely to be guilty of oversharing – generally because they’re not necessarily expecting readers, and if they are they don’t really care about maintaining readership.

What type of blogger do you think you are? Have I missed any types?

 

List of Lists

I have written a lot of list posts in the last two days. Here’s a list of list posts. It’s the last such list. Normal services will be resumed shortly, I have hundreds of pieces of oddness just waiting to be posted.

  1. Five reasons to write lists
  2. Seven things that occupied my time over the weekend
  3. Five interesting things I learned about Calvin
  4. Three reasons to clean your fish tank
  5. Ten things I liked about the Townsville V8 Supercar Event
  6. Five reasons I’m not doing MTS
  7. Ten songs I would have voted for in JJJs Hottest 100 of all time

List of Songs I would have voted for…

I didn’t vote in JJJ’s hottest 100 of all time (here’s the list). I love the Js, but I haven’t listened to anything other than local ABC radio for months (except to listen to a little bit of the Hottest 100 of All Time).

It looks like the vote was crashed by a bunch of old time rockers with a penchant for Michael Jackson. There are hardly any songs from the last few years, which is pretty awesome.

If I had voted (and you get to vote for ten songs):

  1. I would have voted for one song per band
  2. I would have given greater weighting to songs from great albums or from bands producing consistently good music rather than one hit wonders.
  3. I would have rewarded bands who I appreciated in their halcyon days but don’t like so much any more (hence the inclusion of The Living End and Powderfinger – they really were my introduction to JJJ – even though they went on to be darlings of the mainstream).

These are the songs I think I would have voted for:

  1. Radiohead – Fake Plastic Trees.
  2. Muse – Plug In Baby
  3. Paul Simon – Call Me Al
  4. Smashing Pumpkins – Disarm
  5. Jeff Buckley – Last Goodbye
  6. Dandy Warhols – Get Off
  7. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
  8. Powderfinger – Day You Come
  9. The Living End – Prisoner of Society
  10. Gomez – Shot Shot

Some of these songs were chosen arbitrarily as representatives of a band’s body of work – I really can’t decide what Radiohead, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins or Gomez song I like the best. Placebo and The Whitlams were unlucky not to make the list on the basis of criteria 3. 

Five Reasons I’m not doing MTS

I’ve had a number of conversations with Ministry Training Scheme apologists telling me that MTS is an essential. They do it lovingly and genuinely. And MTS is a terrific program for people thinking about vocational ministry. But I don’t think it’s for me. I think it’s probably for others. I don’t think of this as a double standard. I’m not sure when MTS became an essential. I’ve no doubt it’s helpful. I just doubt that it’s necessary.

MTS apologists have also, on occasion suggested the effectiveness of one’s ministry is tied to whether or not one undertook MTS. This is rubbish.

I don’t think setting up anything as a compulsory step in the path to ministry is right.

These apologists think my reasoning is weak. And it’s hard to argue with their reasoning without sounding arrogant (which I am, and which MTS would help) – but our minds are pretty made up. We’re already well underway with the college process. I’m not sure what these guys hoped to gain outside of unsettling us.

I would have gladly done MTS if I was still single and was asked 3 years ago. But I’m not, and I wasn’t. Well, not in any convincing way.

Here is my reasoning.

  1. Finances
    Training for ministry is a significant financial sacrifice – four years living below the poverty line while potentially trying to start a family doesn’t sound like much fun – six years sounds crazy. I’m not completely driven by finances but I am a pragmatist.
  2. Time
    I want to go to college because I want to be in full time ministry (and I want to be appropriately equipped for a lifetime of doing that). College is four years of not doing the job that I want to be doing – and not taking responsibility for a ministry. 

    I am headstrong, stubborn and confident (also known as arrogant) – I don’t want to spend two years as an apprentice before spending another four years essentially being an apprentice while at college. We feel a little bit like we’ve left the college decision a year late anyway – Robyn wants to study with me, and we want to fit a family in somewhere (God willing), and adding another two years to the schedule doesn’t work.

  3. Experience
    This reason is twofold – one, our plan, prior to college – is to end up in parish ministry and I think the most important experience for parish ministry is in the workplace – not a couple of years of extra years of ministry training. 

    Two – MTS is great for giving people an experience of the lifestyle that comes with full time ministry – and the costs involved, as well as hands on responsibility for programs. I think I’ve done a fair bit of the latter – and I grew up in the former. I don’t know how much MTS could possibly teach me about life in ministry that I haven’t experienced directly or vicariously.

  4. Pragmatics
    There are practicalities and external factors driving our decision to head to college (QTC) next year. The college is in its infancy (following significant strategic and cultural change), it needs students to keep this momentum, and I’d like to be part of that.
    If we’re thinking about Townsville as a long term option (and it’s on the list) then I’d like to be in a position to be back here sooner rather than later.
  5. I have plenty of “mentors”
    MTS National Director, Ben Pharlet, was in Townsville over the weekend – his MTS apologetic was that it’s a great chance to be spiritually “fathered” ala Paul and Timothy. He may have a point on this as a “mentoring” type role – and it has made me reconsider my ill conceived mentoring rant last week. I was probably wrong there.

    But I don’t feel like this is a massive gap in my ministry armour – I’ve benefited greatly from close relationships with people in Ministry in various roles with AFES and church. I know what Christ centred gospel focused ministry looks like. I know what it costs. I know people can be draining and hard.

    From what I’ve observed in the ministry of people I know it’s brotherhood that sustains ministry in the long term. And my peers are going through college (or finishing MTS) now – or will be in the near future. I have no doubt I could find new peers later on – but why put in the relational hard yards when I’ve got a ready made group of friends already in the throes of ministry training.   

While I love and appreciate many people who have MTS’d in the past – and think it did them (and would do me) the world of good – I just don’t think

that two years of training prior to training will have a massive effect in the long term. Having spoken to many MTS graduates I’m sure it’s a good thing – I just don’t think it’s a necessary thing. Your thoughts (especially you Izaac)?

Ten things I enjoyed about the Townsville 400

  1. The feeling of professional satisfaction – the organisation I work for played an integral role in bringing the event to Townsville, I have written more about V8s than anything but energy generation. I know lots about energy generation. This photo is largely unrelated.  
  2. The noise – is absolutely thrilling. The “pop” the cars make when changing gears sounds like fireworks. We were sitting in stands next to the starting grid and the start of the race was phenomenal. 
  3. The crowd – was massive. It’s weird how into the sport fans of V8s are – they’re covered in team merchandise.
  4. The professionalism – The V8 organisation, the teams and the drivers are the most personable sports stars I’ve ever interacted with – if sitting in a room as a bunch of drivers talk about the sport is “interacting” – the Melbourne Storm weren’t far off. But these guys can sell merchandise and know who butters their bread (the sponsors).
  5. The carnage – everyone goes to races for crashes.
  6. The spectacle – it’s a visual feast, fast cars, colourful starting grid set-ups, the mini racing, the utes… it was a grand day out.
  7. The teamwork – one of the things I’m really starting to appreciate about motor sports (and cycling) is the team tactics – and the contribution to “individual” success that comes from the surrounding team – like the pit crews. They change tires, fuel up and do running maintenance in a blur. We were sitting opposite the pits and I spent as much time watching the pit crews as watching the cars.
  8. Photography – I was determined to snap a few photos of moving cars looking like they weren’t moving with the background all blurry. I got a few such shots – you can see other photos from the day here. I took about 1,300 photos.
  9. The Jesus car – Andrew “Fishtail” Fisher drives a ute in the V8 Ute race – his team is called “Jesus – All About Life” – he gets great exposure and they read out the full name of his “sponsor” every time he gets mentioned (see point 4). The exposure is tremendous. In the first ute race he ran three other drivers off the road – and busted a tire while doing so.
  10. My wife – I went to the V8s with Robyn. She makes everything more fun.

Listmania

I feel like writing lists today. Here are my five reasons for writing lists. 

  1. Lists are good blog fodder.
  2. I have a number of multifaceted topics to write about.
  3. Lists encourage brevity while dealing with multiple ideas on a theme.
  4. They’re structurally easier to read than lengthy monologues.
  5. They’re more likely to be shared by other people.

The fine art of persuasion

Lets face it – for all intents and purposes any piece of communication is an exercise in persuasion. If it’s not you shouldn’t bother. So no doubt there’ll be something useful in these “50 Scientifically proven ways to be persuasive“…

Here are some samples:

Rhyming makes the phrases more convincing. People were asked to evaluate the practical value of parables “Caution and measure will win you treasure” and “Caution and measure will win you riches”. In general proverb A was considered to be more practical and insightful than proverb B.

Caffeine increases the argumentativeness of a strong argument. Group A drank regular orange juice, group B drank orange juice infused with caffeine. Both groups were then presented with a statement on controversial issue. Except one statement then made weak and hasty arguments, while the second statement made a strong case. Both groups equally dismissed the weak argument case. As far as strongly argumentative case, group B was 30% more receptive. A faster-working brain under the influence of caffeine seems to appreciate good arguments.

At least ten R2-D2 items you don’t want or need

I don’t really get excited by Star Wars – which is why I mercifully (or mercilessly) flogged off my garage sale haul of Star Wars figurines rather than putting them in a cupboard to look at once every couple of years.

But, I do see weird Star Wars merchandise from time to time as I trawl the internet for blogworthy goodness – to be honest they’ve all fallen into my lap via Google Reader. Now I am collating them for your reading pleasure… in no particular order.

Yes, a Plush robot. Probably life size, but who can tell.


A backpack

A tissue box cover


A Pepper Mill

A pool toy – available in Target apparently…


A USB Hub

A children’s laptop

An aquarium

A drink bottle


A Nutcracker


A USB drive.


An all in one remote controlled media centre, DVD drive and projector

An iPhone controlled life sized robot companion