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12 Days of Blogging 2010

What I Learned from the 12 Days of Blogging, part two

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Yesterday, I posted part one of What I Learned from the 12 Days of Blogging, all about advice for posting a series on your blog. Today, I wanted to talk about what I learned about site navigation as I perused the Internet looking for links to include in the series. I featured over 100 bloggers but easily visited twice as many websites in my quest to bring you information. I likely missed a number of awesome posts, not because I didn’t land on the right blogs, but because I simply couldn’t easily find them. Some of the lessons below are things I need to implement on my own blog – I didn’t even realize they were missing.

So, without further ado, here’s what I learned about presenting information on your site as I compile the 12 Days of Blogging:

Lesson #1: Have a search bar.

I was going to sites looking for specific information, and while that may not be the case with every reader, there are a lot of times when someone will want to see if you’ve written about that specific topic. If you have a site search tool on your sidebar, I’m more likely to actually follow through in hunting for the information and I do so all while staying on your site. Making your readers go to Google is not a good thing.

Lesson #2: Use categories that make sense.

If readers can’t easily find information on your site, chances are good that they’ll leave pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter how well you write. It isn’t always relevant for me to go through your last few pages of posts. Sometimes I want to see what you’ve written on a particular subject. This is especially true for people hunting for specific information, like I was, but is also true of long-time readers.

Lesson #3: Have a “Best Of” page.

When it’s the first time I’m visiting a blog, a best of page draws me in and gives me a quick way to find out if this is a blog I want to visit again. Without a best of page, the saying, “you’re only as good as your last post” rings true. Yes, you should focus on being awesome with every post, but what if you last post was a site announcement or the end of a series or a review or another type of post that it’s super relevant to a new reader? For people who want to link to you in some way, a best of page also highlights the posts that make you most proud, so they can get spread more often.

Lesson #4: Don’t make me hunt for your Twitter ID.

Again, I included 100+ bloggers in my 12 Days of Blogging series and I found Twitter IDs for ALL of them except ONE. So, if you’re a blogger, you have Twitter. Of all of those Twitter accounts, I’d estimate that a good 80 to 90 percent of them are active, at least mildly, and at leas 75 percent of them are active daily. The real crime here was that I had to hunt for Twitter IDs for a lot of bloggers I included. If you’re not active on Twitter, that’s one thing, but if you are, put a link on your sidebar or at the end of your posts! It blew my mind how many bloggers made me go to Twitter and search for them or click the “tweet this” button on a post to see who is CC’ed.

Lesson #5: Control your pop-ups.

I know that the debate about having a pop-up (“hover over” or otherwise) will rage on until the end of time. Some bloggers add them because the stats don’t lie – you do get more clicks/subscribers/etc that way. Other bloggers won’t add them on principle, since they can be intrusive. If you do add them, a word to the wise – CONTROL THEM. I don’t need a pop up on every page. I don’t need it to fade in again after I’ve already clicked “no thanks” to get rid of it. More than once, I decided not to use a blogger’s link because their pop up was extremely annoying. Good content won’t always save you.

Lesson #6: Give me an RSS button.

At BlogWorld, one of the things I heard most often was that you need to give readers email options for subscription, since not everyone uses RSS. True. Very true. BUT SOME PEOPLE DO! I went to a lot of sites that did not have RSS buttons, and while I know that I can just type /feed after a URL in many cases, I’m lazy. I just want to click a button. Plus, if I do that, feedburner might not record me as a subscriber, which messes up your stats. And sometimes that trick doesn’t work. And blogs where I do that are more likely to be broken in my feed reader in the future. It’s just bad news. Don’t give up on RSS completely. Oh, and pro tip? I found that I was more likely to subscribe if the person had a button at the end of their post in addition to on the sidebar. Food for thought.

Lesson #7: Site design matters.

If your site has a pixelated header, a bunch of blinking banner ads, and comic sans font, I just can’t take you seriously. You don’t have to pay someone to design an amazing site for you. You don’t even have to pay for a theme. But take a little pride in appearance. It’s the least you can do for your readers.

Lesson #8: Write a good About page.

Your about page should contain two things – information about the website (i.e., what readers can expect from you) and information about the person/people who write the blog posts. I went to so many About pages that only included information about the site. Part of the reason I read any blog is its writer. So tell me about yourself! As someone hunting for information, this was also important to me. I want to know why I should care what you say. Do you have education? Experience? Life circumstances that qualify you to write in your niche? I want to know that I’m getting good tips, not just “well, maybe this will work because other people say so” advice. For the record, your About page is a great place to include your Twitter ID and email address (or link to your contact page).

I know there are lots of other little “pet peeves” I could include about people’s site, but sometimes what works for one market (or even one reader) doesn’t work for others. The above eight things are lessons I think EVERY blogger needs to learn, regardless of niche, and they’re things that a lot of people are missing.

Free Ebook Featuring 100+ Bloggers!

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Santa

I promised it to you – and here it is: The 12 Days of Blogging 2010 in ebook format. During the 12 Days of Blogging series, I featured over 100 bloggers who gave us advice on everything from writing posts to time management to recording podcasts. There’s a little something for everyone in this series! Learn from some of the Internet’s favorite bloggers such as:

  • Chris Brogan
  • John Chow
  • Darren Rowse
  • Chris Garrett
  • Scott Stratten
  • Brian Solis

But also meet rising stars in the blogging world and people from outside the make-money-blogging niche such as:

  • Annabel Candy
  • Srini Rao
  • Catherine Caine
  • Adam Baker
  • Ann Smarty
  • Marian Schembari

And way, way, way too many others to list!

Of course, most of you were probably super busy during the holidays, so instead of having to go back and find the links you want, you can just download this ebook and have the entire things at your fingertips, whenever you want it.

The 12 Days of Blogging is completely free – no email address required, no cost, no restrictions. All I ask is that if you enjoyed this series, please pass it on so that others can enjoy it too – hit the retweet button, “like” this post on Facebook, write a blog post about it, send it out to your mailing list, or just tell a friend as you’re chatting over coffee. If you know someone who might benefit from this ebook, pass it on, keeping the spirit of community alive and well.

It won’t be perfect. A compilation this huge never is. In my hurry to get it to you as soon as humanly possible, I’m sure there are some Is left undotted and some Ts left uncrossed. I hope you find it valuable regardless – I know that I’ve found it extremely valuable to read posts from some of the best bloggers in the world.

Thank you so much for being a part of the BlogWorld community in 2010. I can’t wait to see what you all do in the coming year, and I hope I’ll get to meet you in person this fall at BlogWorld Expo 2011!

Click Here to Download 12 Days of Blogging Now!

(This is a pdf document that you can download directly to your computer. If it opens for you in Scribd, click on the first arrow on the task bar at the upper right-hand corner, which says “open in new window” when you hover over it. From that screen, you can save or print like normal. Or, you can view fullscreen to read the ebook online if you don’t want to download it to your computer!)

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

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A partridge. A pear tree. These two seemingly random items have become as synonymous with the holidays as Christmas trees and Santa. Well almost. Nothing beats Santa.

I decided to do a little research to find out exactly why these gifts were chosen, since they don’t exactly scream romance. What I’ve found is that there was an old tradition where a  young girl should walk backward around a pear tree three times and then gaze into the branches. There, she would see her true love and future husband. In Europe, partridges commonly sat in fruit trees, so combined with their symbolism of fertility (they apparently breed like rabbits), this is a pretty romantic gift choice after all. A gift like that would go to someone you completely adore.

Of course, with any tradition, there are other possible meanings behind “partridge in a pear tree” – but that’s the one I like best!

Anyway, to me, this is a fitting way to end the 12 Days of Blogging. Today, like many of you, I’m sure, I spent the day celebrating with my family. While I did grow up Christian, for us, the day is not so much religious as it is a day where we celebrate one another. In fact, we have this silly and wonderful Christmas tradition where someone in the family gets a gold star necklace, then the next year they pick who gets the necklace (usually for an accomplishment, such as graduating high school or surviving a heart attack or getting a promotion), and then that persons picks the recipient the next year so on and so on – it just keeps getting passed around the family. Christmas is a day for us to spend time together as a family and be thankful we have one another.

As I was opening gifts and eating waaaaay too many Christmas cookies, my phone kept chirping from Twitter DMs and pinging because I was getting new emails and text messages. I realized something; you all are my family too.

I have met the most amazing, understanding, supportive, friendly, giving people through blogging and social media. Some of you, I’ve only met in real life once or twice – or not at all. But you have become my family.

And isn’t that really what blogging is all about? Sure, we can talk about post writing and SEO and podcasting and everything else I’ve covered in the 12 Days of Blogging…but why do we do what we do? There are certainly easier ways to make money. There are certainly many avenues for getting our voices heard. Why do we choose blogging?

I think for most of us, it is the community. When I look into the branches of the virtual pear tree, I see all of your avatars smiling back at me. Blogging and connecting through new media gives me this awesome family living around the world. This network, this community, this is why I do what I do. Both here and at After Graduation, connecting with readers, one person at a time, has meant the world to me.

To show my appreciation, I’d like to give you a partridge in a pear tree. No, I’m not sending fruit and pheasants your way. This week, I’ll be releasing A Partridge in a Pear Tree: The 12 Days of Blogging 2010 right here on the BlogWorld blog. This will be a complete compilation of the 12 Days of Blogging, from 12 Writers Writing to 2 Ethics Debates. That way, if you missed a day or two or didn’t have time for the series at all, you can download the ebook and read it at your leisure without clicking around to all the links.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree will be completely free with no email sign-up necessary. BlogWorld isn’t paying me to do this, nor will I be accepting donations (some people have actually emailed me to ask about that – y’all are super flattering!!). I just want to make it available to you, if you want it, as a holiday gift with no strings attached.

The ebook will be ready this coming week, before New Years, so check back to grab your copy! If you’re worried about remembering, follow me on Twitter (@allison_boyer) – I’ll be tweeting about it as soon as it is released. You can also subscribe to the BlogWorld RSS feed or newsletter, of course, to receive a reminder!

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading here at BlogWorld and on After Graduation. Thank you for all the retweets, all the Facebook likes, all the comments. Thank you for coming to BlogWorld Expo and meeting me, the amazing BlogWorld staff, and one another. Thank you for submitting speaker proposals. Thank you for helping mold this industry into something amazing. Thank you.

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 2 Ethics Debates

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In blogging and new media, not everything is black or white. That’s partially because the industry is still brand new so we don’t have the kinks worked out yet…and partially because life is shades of gray, my friends. It always will be. Today, for the 12 Days of Blogging, I wanted to highlight two important ethics conundrums in the blogging and new media world. I’m definitely interested to hear your opinions on both! Like with the rest of this series, I’m featuring two bloggers who have written on these topics as a starting point for talking about these debates.

1. Do Hoaxes and Fear Tactics have a Place in Social Media? by Dave Kramer at The Writer’s Bloc

This first post chronicles the story of an alleged publicity stunt by Good Old Games (GOG), a company that allows you to purchase and play classic video games on your PC. Someone from GOG tweeted about the difficulties in running their type of business, and while this tweet went largely unnoticed, two days later, the store front on the site was gone. When people checked Twitter for an explanation, this was of course one of the last tweets they saw from the company. The company used careful wording in their statements to make it sound like like they were shutting down, and people were really upset (it’s a beloved service for gamers). Turns out, the “business and technical reasons” that shut them down were really them moving the site out of beta for a full launch. They just wanted to generate buzz. From Dave’s post:

GOG.com seems to have generated the buzz it wanted and even earned back some customers’ trust with the addition of two popular classic games and a large sale on “favorites.” Time will tell if the stunt hurts them or served its intended purpose.

But as a social media manager who aims to understand customer needs and perspectives and strives for transparency in communications, I have to wonder if hoaxes and stunts that anger customers are ever a good risk.

I don’t like that they deceived their users (paying users, not even just readers) in order to generate buzz. At the same time…it worked. They reported 20 times their normal traffic when they brought the site back up. So, although they lost some fans, they also made sales.

In addition, some people liked the stunt. A lot of people were upset, but when the stunt was revealed, a lot of people applauded them for doing something unique.

Is it ever okay to deceive your audience? More importantly, is it ok to do it for the sake of sales?

Check out The Writer’s Bloc to read the full story and follow the site on Twitter @TheWritersBloc.

2. My heart grew three sizes and now I have an enlarged heart. WORTH IT by Jenny Lawson at The Bloggess

I’m highlighting this post not because I think there’s anything in it to debate, but because it does bring up a few questions about what could (and does) happen when it comes to blogging and charity. I don’t think there’s any debating that what happened this weekend at The Bloggess was anything less than amazing. She offered to donate some gift cards to the first 20 people who were having a hard time paying for gifts for their kids this year. Over 20 people replied, and she realized that she couldn’t allow those comments to go unanswered…but at the same time, that had the potential to snowball really quickly into a free-for-all.

An amazing thing happened. Strangers began stepping up, offering to help as well. Soon, in a donor-matching frenzy, small gifts of cash, gift cards, and items were being sent all over the world. At final count, 698 strangers stepped up to send money to 450 people in need totaling over $40,000. Forty. Thousand. Dollars. From the post:

No large corporations got involved.  No one only offered to donate if they got something out of it themselves.  With no sponsorships, no ulterior motives and with only a simple need to reach out and help a perfect stranger, 689 everyday, normal people (Jewish, Christians, Atheists, Muslims and more) sent out over $40,000 worth of donations to make sure Christmas came.

You did this.

I am completely overwhelmed by everyone in the blogging community. That was awesome.

So where does the debate part come in?

What Jenny did at her site was amazing, but I’ve seen “charity posts” that are…less than amazing. In fact, I see posts that rub me the wrong way sometimes.

Back before BlogWorld, I had a family emergency that drained my finances, and I couldn’t have made it to Vegas if not for the generosity of some awesome people who contributed to replenish that source of money. Writing that post was humbling. It’s never fun to ask for money for others, let alone for ourselves.

Some bloggers go overboard.

If you constantly have to ask your readership for donations, perhaps you should rethink the way you monotize or your monthly budget. Worse yet, I’ve seen people ask for donations for frivolous things, such as wanting to purchase a new iPad. If your computer crashes and you don’t know how you’ll keep your blog up and running without the support of your community, please ask us for help. If you want to vacation in the Caribbean this winter…how about you do something about it instead of asking for donations? Yes, I will purchase consulting or your ebook to add to your vacation fund – but “donation” implies need, in my mind. Do you really need to fly first class instead of coach?

I talked about this with my roommate a few months ago, and he brought up an interesting point, however. If that blogger’s community is willing to support them, then who am I to say that they shouldn’t ask for donations? I suppose that’s a good argument. Its not as though they’re asking for donations for the needy and then pocketing the cash or pretending to be in need when they really just don’t want to dip into their savings account. If you’re upfront with your readers, is it okay to ask for frivolous things?I don’t know that I have an answer to this debate either.

Let me reiterate again that I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with what happened at The Bloggess this past week. That’s an example of everything right in the world. I just wonder about the legitimacy when you take need out of the equation and request money for yourself instead.

Oh, and back to the original post I highlighted – check out more from ever-awesome Jenny Lawson at The Bloggess and follow her on Twitter @TheBloggess.

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 3 Ebook Tips

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A few days ago, I wrote 6 Launchers Launching as part of the 12 Days of Blogging 2010 – and that post was all about getting your product out there for the masses. For many bloggers, that first product is an ebook. It doesn’t matter how awesome the launch advice you read may be if you don’t know where to start when it comes to writing an ebook in the first place…which leads me to today’s post.

I’m a freelance writer before I’m a blogger, so I’ve bee writing ebooks for several years now for clients. I also have done two ebooks of my own at After Graduation (one free and one paid) and am currently working on a third. I love ebooks!

Before highlighting some awesome bloggers who have written posts about how to write ebooks, I wanted to give you my three best tips on the process, since I’ve done this before (multiple times actually):

1. Just do it. Because you can! Too many bloggers can overwhelmed by the thought of writing something so long, but instead of thinking about it as a 50-page ebook, think of it as a really long series of blog posts. Write your outline and then tackle each chapter. It really isn’t any harder than blogging.

2. If you’re not a designer, hire someone who is to format the book and design the cover and graphics. Having a professional-looking ebook makes a boatload of difference when it comes to sales.

3. Use plenty of links. Since an ebook will be read on a computer, notebook, or other such device, most viewers will be able to connect to the Internet. In print books, you want to stay away from too many links, especially if they’re long. In ebooks, they add a ton of value.

Ok, those are my three favorite ebook tips – what are yours? Check out the following three posts from some super smart bloggers and then comment below with your favorite ebook tip and/or a link to your own post about ebooks!

1. How to Write Your First Outrageously Awesome Ebook by Henri Junttila at Wake Up Cloud

If you’ve never attempted ebook writing before, this is a nuts and bolts guide to doing it! I agree with every bit of Henri’s advice, from the advice on how to choose a topic to the advice on how to design and covert the finished product. From the post:

Remember to keep it simple. What helps me get things done is that I don’t get caught up in worrying about stuff that I’m not good at. This doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it, because I do, but I keep going.

For example, when writing my first ebook, I knew that it wasn’t going to be perfect. I accepted it, and created it anyway. It turned out fine, and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, which just goes to show you that what you think is perfect, may not be what other people even want, or need.

Check out Wake Up Cloud for more great advice and follow Henri on Twitter @henrijunttila.

2. 101 Ways to Make Your e-Book Sexy by Logan Zanelli

Woah. I mean, woah. I think in compiling this 12 Days of Blogging series (with over 100 bloggers featured at this point), I’ve become slightly immune to awesome content. It’s sade, but true; I’ve read so much awesome stuff over the past few days that awesome I’m on awesome overload. Yet here’s a post that slaps me in the face with awesome. In fact, it’s a level above awesome. Whatever that level it called. ONE HUNDRED AND ONE tips. And I’ve read through them all – they’re all good tips, not crap that Logan used to boost the number. After you’re done writing, this is a post you need to read to get you ebook out the door and looking its best. From the post:

Well, now that the writing is done, you need to pull it all together in a nice layout and get it ready for distribution. But what’s the best way to do that? Is there any “tricks of the trade” when it comes to eBook design? How do you create an eBook layout that’s both appealing and easy to navigate all at the same time?

OK, first of all B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Repeat after me: “it’s going to be OK.”

There, feel better? Cool. Now on to the good stuff…

The good stuff is all at Logan’s blog. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @LoganZanelli!

3. It’s Not The Products You Make, It’s The Lives You Change by Jonathan Wondrusch at By Bloggers

By Bloggers is pretty much a one-stop shop if you’re looking for advice on ebook creation. Not only do they give great advice on that site, but they also promote awesome ebooks from other bloggers. This post isn’t ebook exclusive – it is an important read for anyone, whether you’re creating an ebook, compiling a course, or even just blogging without a product in mind yet. It’s one of those posts that really has lit a fire under my digital tushie. Writes Jonathan:

As you’re creating your product, realize that it has a very different significance to you than it does for your audience. For you, your product is a gateway into a better future, where you have more cash, more attention or more readers in your life. For your readers, it might be a source of inspiration, truth and education, but they have no way of knowing that until they crack the pages; unless you give them one.

Do yourself a favor and check out the full post on By Bloggers and follow Jonathan on Twitter @bybloggers.

BONUS: Because I think you all need one more awesome post about ebooks, here’s a final blog post to check out: “How an eBook Becomes an eCourse” from Kelly Kingman (@stickyebooks) at Sticky eBooks. If you want to take your ebook to the next level, this post is a great place to start!

Ok, your turn – leave a comment with your best ebook tip or link to a post you wrote/read about ebooks!

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

12 Days of Blogging 2010: 4 Podcast Hosts

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Written content isn’t your only option if you want to be a successful blogger. In fact, those who are taking the initiative to work with other forms of media have a much greater opportunity for success in many cases, since there are fewer people doing podcasts and video content. For today’s 12 Days of Blogging 2010 post, I wanted to feature four people who are awesome podcasters – and some of the advice they have for others interested in this form of blogging.

1. Brilliant Marketing Tactics: Podcasts and Interviews by Srinivas Rao at The Skool of Life

Srini, along with Sid Savara, runs BlogcastFM, and it’s no secret that I love this site. BlogcastFM posts multiple podcasts every week with awesome bloggers who have something to teach us about making more money, finding more traffic, and so on. Who better to speak on podcasting than someone who’s done dozens of them with some of the most respected bloggers in the industry? Writes Srini:

People always ask me how I come up with so many ideas  and I guess it would be appropriate to say  “I don’t. These are just combinations of hundreds of people’s ideas that I’m putting together.”  I learn something from every single person I interview whether they are big, small, have 100 subscribers or 1000.

Head to The Skool of Life to read more advantages to podcasting, as well as find links to useful resources on getting started. You can also follow Srini on Twitter @skooloflife.

2. How To Conduct A Quality Podcast Interview by Yaro Starak at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com

Yaro’s done countless interviews with industry professionals, and since he first started podcasting, he’s learned a lot about what works and what does not – at least for him. In this post, he talks about how he does interviews with guests for his podcast and why these techniques work. From the post:

To this day I still listen to podcasts, and especially love interviews with experts (and music of course too), however I’ve noticed that many podcast interviews are just not well done. While I don’t consider myself the best of the best when it comes to podcasts, I’ve done over 60 of them in the last five years and I thought it was about time I wrote something on how exactly to conduct a quality podcast interview.

You can read more from Yaro at Entrepreneurs-Journey.com and follow him on Twitter @yarostarak.

3. The Selfish Art of Podcasting by Mitch Joel at Six Pixels of Separation

Mitch has done over 200 podcast episodes over the past few years, and in this post he reflects on the reasons why he loves this medium for blogging. Writes Mitch:

While it’s humbling to know that people like (and listen) to the show, it really is a very selfish act. I use the platform of a Podcast as a gateway to meet people who are smarter than me and people who I want to learn from. I use the platform of a Podcast as a gateway to connect and learn from some of the brightest minds in Marketing and business. The bonus of all of this, is that I can publish these podcasts for anyone and everyone to listen to, but I don’t do it for the listeners or the community. I do it because I can get people like Seth Godin, Don Tapscott, David Weinberger, Sally Hogshead, Charlene Li, Steve Wozniak and many others all to myself for a brief moment in time.

It’s an interesting benefit to podcasting that you may not have considered in the past. I love that it opens up a discussion too – why do you podcast? To read more (and listen to his podcast of course), head to Six Pixels of Separation. You can follow Mitch on Twitter @mitchjoel.

4. A Voice For Your Vision: How to Make Podcasting Work for Your Business by Doug Heacock – guest post for Freelance Switch

What I like about this post on Freelance Switch is that it goes over both the advances and disadvantages of podcasting. While podcasting can be beneficial for many bloggers, it certainly isn’t right for everyone. From the post:

If you’re passionate about what you do, you have already fulfilled one of the first prerequisites for podcasting: you have something to say. Like good blogging, good podcasting is all about the content. If you have quality content to share, and if you can learn how to produce, distribute and promote your podcast effectively, people who are interested in what you have to say will essentially give you permission to speak right into their ear(bud)s, and that’s a privilege you should take seriously. If the content is lame, they might listen for a while, but sooner or later they’ll move on.

Head to Freelance Switch to read more, and follow the blog at @freelancesw. Doug’s blog is found at Underpants Office.

Have you written about podcasting? Do you have a podcast on your blog? What tips do you have for new podcasters? Leave a comment below with links and your best advice!

Check out the rest of the 12 Days of Blogging:

12 Writers Writing
11 Tweeters Tweeting
10 Guests a-Posting
9 SEOers Optimizing
8 Affiliates Selling
7 Facebook Users Updating
6 Launchers Launching
5 Golden Rules
4 Podcasting Hosts
3 Ebook Tips
2 Ethics Debates
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree (ebook coming soon!)

5 Golden Rules: Failure and Doubt

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This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

We all fail.

I’ll say it again, because it’s important. We all fail.

The best bloggers among us cry. And scream. And want to quit. The best bloggers among us also don’t. Quit, that is. They take time to reflect on their failures and analyze what they can do better. The best bloggers among us learn to stop listening to the self-doubt and to grow.

You are not alone, and more importantly, you are not defeated. Unless you want to be.

1. The Failure Manifesto by Erica Douglass

When i read Erica’s post for the first time earlier this year I think it was the first time I’ve felt not-so-alone in terms of failing as a blogger. People can tell me I’m not a failure until they’re blue in the face, but the face of the matter is that I often am a failure. And this post made that okay. If Erica, who is someone that created a million-dollar business before she was thirty, feels like a failure sometimes, than others probably do as well. Just because we all put on a happy face doesn’t mean that we don’t all feel like complete crap some days.

From Erica’s post:

I have a super strong personality. But I am not able to handle it 100% of the time. Today was one of those days where I could not handle it. Could not push Send on the email blast, because I didn’t want the blowback.

Instead, I write this. I break down the walls a little bit between you and me. Underneath the steel armor exterior, I am a person. And the words hurt. The refunds hurt. The refunds are the worst part. I take them very personally. If you’ve ever refunded a product you’ve bought from me for more than $100, I’ve cried about it. About you. I’ve wondered what the heck I ever did to hurt you.

Check out Erica’s blog for the full post and follow her on Twitter @ericabiz.

2. On Faces and Eyes, Specifically Mine by Miss Britt

Meeting Miss Britt was one of the serendipitous happenings so common at BlogWorld. I know that she was not with our group at lunch on my last day in Vegas. I know we picked her up somewhere along the way by the time we were all heading to the Problogger party that evening. Hell if I know when it happened, but suddenly she was there and we were friends. I think that’s kind of how it is with Miss Britt. She just shows up in your life like an unexpected gift and you’re friends, like it’s a fact of the universe.

I looked her up when I got home, of course, and promptly cried when I read this post. Then I cried again when I was compiling this list and read it a second time. Why? Because I’ve felt this way too, not about my eyes but about other things. And it’s funny…I’m always so caught up in my own flaws that I don’t really notice the flaws other people see in themselves. I mean, I notice them, but they don’t really register to me as flaws. I somehow only see differences as flaws when they’re in myself.

But I’m rambling. From Miss Britt’s post:

I picked through my brain to recall someone I knew who was not beautiful, someone whose differences were so hideous that they couldn’t be denied as flaws.  None.  Not a one.Was it possible that I was a supernatural magnet for attractive people?  Why is it that most of the most beautiful people I know have shared with me some perceived flaw they see when they look in the mirror?

Could it be that differences – even differences like crossed eyes – really were just things that were?  Could it be that these differences weren’t automatically judged as good or bad by all, but that they were taken in and weighed as part of the greater whole?  Could it be that while some would toss me into The Bad pile, that others would not have to struggle to see me as beautiful?  Could it be that the whichever route they chose was a reflection on them, and not me?

Go read the full post. Go read all of Miss Brit’s blog. Go follow her on Twitter @missbritt. Because, my friends, you won’t find a more beautiful person out there.

3. Bippity Boppity Bullshit: Lessons from Cinderella, Midnight & Moxie by Marissa Bracke

This post is everything I want to say about failure, but written in a much better way than I could ever say it. As Marissa points out, the stars will never align. It isn’t about sitting around and waiting for things to be perfect; it’s about picking yourself up and making things happen. The Cinderella story is just a fairy tale. In real life, we need to take matters into our own hands instead of wondering when some kind of magical godmother will show up. From the post:

I’m realizing that there will never be a point in time where all of the bippities will be boppitied at the same time… there will always be something that’s not quite fully transformed, and there will always be something that’s in the twilight of its transformation and about to need some new attention and tweaking.

I’m also realizing that there will never be a point in time when I will need a post-Fairy-Godmother perfect scenario to get to the damn ball. Sure, it’d be nice… but not necessary.

You can read the full post at Marissa’s blog and follow her on Twitter @marissabracke.

4. Criticism: It Doesn’t Have To Be a Little Shop of Horrors by Kelly Diels at Cleavage

I suppose I’m lucky in that my first dance with professional blogging away from a client or network blog (i.e., blogs not owned by moi) was in an industry where you have to learn to have thick skin – video games. If you report the news, you run the risk of getting eaten alive, so you can image what happens when you post an opinion piece. I got all the crying and anger out of my system with that blog, and although unexpected criticism hurts – a lot sometimes – I’m less sensitive to it than many bloggers.

Kelly Diels covers this topic really well at Cleavage, so I wanted to highlight her post. As bloggers, we have to be prepared to face criticism, and often times, we can learn and grow, even from venomous comments. From her post:

And blogs are conversation, right? Not all conversations will fly on the whispering wings of butterflies and hummingbirds.  Sometimes it won’t be pretty.

Not only that, but I live, breathe and write social commentary. Public critique is a boomerang: if I’m going to throw it, it will come back to me.

I realized I’ve got to be prepared for the slings and arrows of outrageous (lack of) manners. The need to move from rice-paper-thin skin to at least a manila-thick epidermis is urgent. (Having a cardboard – or kevlar – hide would be even better.)

Check out Cleavage for more from Kelly and follow her on Twitter @kellydiels.

5. Why I Sucked at SXSW So You Don’t Have to by Chris Garrett

One of the reasons I admire Chris Garrett so much is that he is totally honest with readers, especially about his failures (and perceived failures). Chris is a self-proclaimed introvert, which is something that I relate to, and reading him talk about his experiences makes me feel not so alone. In this post, he not only talks about what he wishes he would have done different at SXSW 2010, but also about what any attendee (to any conference really) can do to avoid common missteps. Writes Chris:

One of the harsh lessons we learn at high school is that there are social cliques and most of those cliques appear cooler than the one you are in. It can be tempting to do anything it takes to break into or gain acceptance from these social circles, without realizing that in the process your desperation is self defeating. There are various symptoms of this, from one guy asking a social media guru to help you get to the front of the Mashable party line, through to a lady attempting to bump and grind against another guru so she could get … um, more friendly. Meeting new people is a good thing, and by all means introduce yourself to people who you want to meet, they will be glad to get to know you. But if people walk away, are deep in conversation, were trying to use the rest room, or start asking how to get a quickie restraining order … well, it might be time to find another target.

You can read more from Chris at his blog or follow him on Twitter @chrisgarrett.

Over to you all – leave a comment linking to your post about failure/self-doubt or tell us about a time when you’ve felt like a failure (and what you did to overcome it).

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

5 Golden Rules: Branding

Author:

This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

If you’re a business, you can use a blog to help build your brand. If you’re a blogger, what you post on your blog and social media helps shape your brand. There’s no two ways about it – branding is important. Good branding can help you become a respected expert in your niche. Poor branding can be a PR disaster…or worse – you may never get any sticky traffic, no matter what you do in terms of promotion.

I’m not a branding expert, but I know people who are – or at least, who understand the best branding techniques far better than I do! Here are five of them (and if you’ve written about branding, please post your link in the comments section below!):

1. When YOU Are The Brand by Chris Brogan

Companies like Coca-cola or Tide or Sony have teams of people working on their brand. As bloggers, not only do we not have that luxury (in most cases), but we also have another unique challenge – we’re branding ourselves, not a product. Chris Brogan, one of the smartest guys around in terms of branding, talks about the topic of being a brand in this post. Writes Chris:

The trick of being in a personal brand is that there’s a big difference between being known, being known for something, and also being able to turn that into business.

I’ve got a recognizable personal brand. It took years to build it. From that, it took years to figure out how best to make business from it. Because just being known doesn’t transform instantly into business.

Many of you may already be readers of Chris’ blog, but if you aren’t, check it out and find him on Twitter @chrisbrogan.

2. Killer Branding in 6 Steps by Mars Dorian at The World Needs You

The World Needs You is one of the awesome blogs that has only recently come onto my radar, causing me to kick myself for not knowing about it sooner. I’m always skeptical of posts with “killer” in the title, because usually they aren’t actually very killer at all. But like with every post he writes, Mars pretty much nails it with this one. It’s good enough to induce some fist-pumping action at points. I’m not every from New Jersey.* From the post:

If you want you to spread your digital influence, you need to become a killer-ass personal brand. It’s e-s-s-e-n-t-i-a-l.

Otherwise, why should people listen to you ? Why should they come to your online platform ? What makes you different ? TONS of stuff. You only have to learn some magic to crystallize it.

Check out The World Needs You for more from Mars and follow him on Twitter @marsdorian.

3. 10 Simple Steps to ‘Thought Leader’ Status in your Niche! by Chris Ducker at Virtual Business Lifestyle

Chris Ducker single-handedly added ten years to my life at BlogWorld; I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. I met him by chance the last day I was in Vegas, and was glad I did, as I hadn’t previously known about his blog, Virtual Business Lifestyle. Now I’m a regular reader. In this post, he talks about becoming a thought leader, which is something that’s only possible with successful branding. From the post:

Nowadays, the internet enables people with experience in a certain industry sector to position themselves as a thought leader a hell of a lot quicker than it has traditionally taken. Sometimes in a matter of just a few weeks, or months! so, with the new year approaching and several people out there wanting to start businesses for themselves based on their experience and entrepreneurial thirst, I’d like to kick off this list of 10 so-simple-you’ll-kick-yourself-for-not-coming-up-with-them-yourself tips, with five ‘harsh reality’ points of interest to consider when positioning yourself as a thought leader without your own chosen niche.

For Chris’ ten tips, head to Virtual Business Lifestyle, and don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @chriscducker.

4. The Secret to Self Promotion: Radiance and the Facts, Jack by Danielle LaPorte at White Hot Truth

While promotion is not the same as branding, the two are closely related. In this post by the ever-awesome Danielle LaPorte, you’ll get some secrets to self-promotion…even if it’s something you hate to do (like me). From the post:

Do I sell my self? Damn straight I do. Everyday, all day. I’m doing it right now. I’ll do it on Twitter, CBC TV, Facebook, this week’s speaking gig for the Travel & Media Association of Canada, and when the waiter asks me what I do for a living. But I’m no longer TRYING TO CONVINCE YOU TO BELIEVE AND BUY. Rather, (and this has been one of my most gnarly, redeeming spiritual journeys) I radiate and state the facts. That’s it. And it’s a helluva lot more efficient than sales.

Check out White Hot Truth and Danielle’s Fire Starter Sessions for more awesome advice, and follow her on Twitter @daniellelaporte.

5. Your Personal Brand is Always with You by Lara Solomon at Social Rabbit

In this post, Social Rabbit gives us a reminder that we all need from time to time – you are always representing your personal brand. This is true both online and offline. Food for thought. From Lara’s post:

It comes back to your personal brand (Gary Vaynerchuk talks a lot about this in Crush It!) and what you want people to take away from meeting/talking/interacting with you. As Erik Qualman says in Socialnomics what happens in Vegas stays on Youtube!

Everyone has heard how people very quickly assess others and form an opinion of them, well now with the aid of social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn this is even easier and they don’t even need to meet you!! So how can you make sure that you are dressed properly and don’t have your underpants ontop of your trouseurs – superman style?

You can read more at the Social Rabbit blog and follow this media-savvy bunny on Twitter @laroo.

Your turn – give me your best post (from your blog or a blog you read) about branding!

*For those of you who don’t get the fist-pumping/Jersey reference, male orange-tinted Jersey dancers are commonly seen fist-pumping on the dance floor when they get overly excited. It’s kind of like a car crash in that you know it’s wrong, but you can’t look away.

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

5 Golden Rules: Networking

Author:

This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

Blogging was once about throwing your words out there and hoping for the best. “If you build it, they will come,” you know, that type of thing. Hell, when I started blogging it was on LiveJournal and pretty much exclusively for my friends – I did not want other people reading my online journal, and I certainly did not know that this was a way to make money.

Today it’s a whole other game. If you write and nothing else, there’s a very, very, very slim chance that anyone will find your site or become a fan. Networking is crucial whether you’re blogging about growing your own tomatoes or posting funny picture of your cat. We network in person and online, both to find readers and to find JV partners. Without networking, it’s easy to become lost in the drivel of everything else on the Internet.

Networking is something that a lot of us still get wrong. Luckily there are no hard and fast rules about it! Unarguably, though, there are some ways to increase the effectiveness of your networking, so I’ve collected some of the best networkers out there to share their advice!

1. The Unmissable Secret of Long Term Blogging Success by Jade Craven – guest post for Problogger

Jade Craven is the queeen of networking. The queen. Seriously, someone get that girl a tiara. She always knows what’s going on at other people’s blogs, who should be on our radars as far as up-and-comers, and what posts we should be reading from others. Beyond that, she makes awesome things happen. She’s like a virtual match-maker for bloggers.

Jade is someone who challenges me in her awesomeness to be better. And I think that’s pretty much the best type of blogger out there.

But enough of my gushing. In this post, Jade dishes on all her networking secrets. Seriously, if you take no other networking advice, listen to Jade. From the post:

Imagine. You are craving an ice cream. You don’t have the time to go and buy the ice cream but then someone offers one because they instinctively know that it could help you right then. Now, imagine that you could help people find solutions that could save or earn them thousands of dollars. They’d be pretty darn grateful, right?

That’s what I do and it’s how you can get a lot of the big guns to view you as a peer in a short period of time.

To succeed at this you have to be good at reading between the lines.

While this post is a one of her many guest posts on Problogger, Jade has an equally awesome post about networking on her own blog called “Networking Secrets that A-Listers won’t Tell You About” and she also offers How To Network Fast, a course that covers the most important networking techniques. Make sure you check out Jade’s blog and follow her on Twitter @jadecraven.

2. Everybody Is Your Peer (or How To Connect With People) by Karol Gajda at Remarkably Extraordinary

What I like about Karol’s post is that he touches on a topic a lot of us forget – networking with people we consider to be our heroes doesn’t have to be hard or intimidating. From the post:

There are times in life when you may want to connect with somebody more “famous” than you. I mean famous relatively speaking. It could be a blogger, business person, government official, or even maybe just the hot girl/guy you see regularly at your local coffee shop.

The first thing you have to remember when you want to connect with anybody you admire is that we’re all human. You, me, and that person you want to connect with. Huge revelation, huh? ;) Lesson #1: treat people like people, not like gods.

To read more from Karol, check out his blog, Remarkably Extraordinary, and follow him on Twitter @KarolGajda.

3. Do You Need New Friends? by Amy Parmenter at The ParmFarm

Amy was one of the people I was sad to miss while at BlogWorld this year (though I have listened to her presentation via virtual ticket since then and it was fabulous). In this post on The ParmFarm, she opens up a rather interesting discussion – do we really need more friends, when most of us aren’t even actively growing relationships with the ones we have already? From her post:

I’m not suggesting quantity over quality. When the world runs out of interesting compassionate people from whom I could learn a thing or two, I’ll be long gone.

But it occurs to me that I don’t even have the time I’d like to devote to my old friends, so why the need to make new ones??

To read Amy’s answer, head to the full post at The ParmFarm, and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter @parmfarm.

4. The Importance of Face-to-Face Conversations by Jill Felska at Pursuing Our Passion

We get so caught up in new media that we sometimes forget that its better to have coffee with your neighbor than DM him or her on Twitter. This post by Jill at Pursuing Our Passion is a great reminder to disconnect occasionally and do some face-to-face networking. Events like BlogWorld don’t happen every day, but I bet there are a number of people in your city who would love to meet with you in person. From the post:

This weekend my grandparents came to town and I did something I rarely do – disconnect. I wasn’t networking on Twitter, didn’t check up on friends via Facebook and ignored (for the most part) my cell phone and email. Except for the occasional FourSquare check-in, I was completely unplugged from the social space and plugged-in to real conversation. It was one of the best, most enlightening weekends I’ve had in a long time – and I have some wonderful grandparents and conversation to thank for that!

Thanks, Jill, for the reminder to get offline sometimes! You can read more from Jill and her fellow Passionista, Jenn, at Pursuing Our Passion, and don’t forget to follow the blog on Twitter @ChiPassionistas, @felska (Jill), and @jennkrenn (Jenn).

5. Communicate with Humans not Statistics by Raam Dev

More subscribers. More comments. More pageviews. Have you ever noticed that most bloggers (myself included) are seemingly obsessed with numbers? Heck, many of us even celebrate things like getting 300 “likes” on Facebook or reaching 1000 Twitter followers. And it’s not that stats aren’t important, but this post by Raam Dev is something we all need to here now and again – write for the person, not for the masses. Writes Raam:

If we have a thought provoking conversation with a friend, our messages and thoughts are freely passed between one another, right? Now lets say we want to have that same thought provoking conversation with ten million people. Do we change the message? Do we generalize and try to simplify it a little so everyone can understand? We have to, right?

Wrong!

By paying attention to those numbers and modifying the message (and this subconsciously happens more often than you may think!), you’re essentially removing the human aspect of communication. You’re no longer speaking to a human.

Networking allows us to connect with thousands of people on a daily basis, but let’s not forget to acknowledge the individual. This is one of the smartest posts I’ve read in a long time; head over to Raam’s blog to read more and follow him on Twitter @raamdev.

Before closing out this post, there’s one more awesome blogger I want to mention: Judy Helfand, who blogs for Webconsuls and at Judy’s Op-Ed (her personal blog). If you want a lesson on how to network with grace, just follow Judy around for a few days. She supports bloggers without asking anything in return. She always has a kind word on Twitter, regardless of the situation. At BlogWorld, she was one of the few people who took the time to hunt me down just to say hello, even for a few minutes, not because she wanted something from me. Judy is a one of the classiest people I’ve met through social media – if you aren’t already, follow her on Twitter @JudyHelfand.

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

5 Golden Rules: Passion

Author:

This post is part of 12 Days of Blogging 2010: 5 Golden Rules. Make sure you check out the rest of the series for more awesome advice from bloggers around the world!

You don’t have to have passion to post something well-written. A trained, talented writer can cover nearly any topic. But blogging isn’t about “covering topics.” It’s fairly easy to pick out the bloggers who have passion about what they’re writing and the bloggers who are running their site because they want to make money with it. Passion is essential. After all, most of us start blogging because we want to get away from doing a job we hate. There are a lot of easier ways to make money if you don’t care about loving your job!

But I’m rambling…let’s look at what some much-smarter-than-me bloggers have to say about the topic of passion.

1. How to Get paid for What you Love by Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity

Chris is the poster child for doing something unconventional with your life (he even has a book about it), but in this post he gets pretty real about the chances you actually have to succeed doing something you love. Not everything can become a business. If that was true, I would be making money laying on the beach with a glass of wine and a book. Writes Chris:

Whoever your prospects, customers, or clients are, they have to identify with what you do and believe it can be possible for them as well. That’s why you work to find the magic convergence between your passions and what customers will pay for. (I go on and on about this in my business work—if you have the Empire Building Kit, I’m sorry for repeating myself. But, I repeat myself: you have to meet a clear need or solve a real problem for the people who pay you. This is critical!)

In fact, the more you can focus on other people’s needs and understand how they overlap with a skill you enjoy sharing, that’s where the real follow-your-passion model gains potential.

Check out The Art of Non-Conformity for more and follow Chris on Twitter @chrisguillebeau.

2. Take This Job and Shove It by Tyler Tervooren at Advanced Riskology

Who among us hasn’t wanted to say that to a boss at some point or another. This post by Tyler Tervooren isn’t actually a post in the traditional sense, but rather his announcement of a completely free ebook you can download from his site. Called Take This Job & Shove it: A Riskologist’s Guide to F*** You Funds. From the post:

This 10,500 word guide is completely free (actually, it pays you $100 to read it) and I wrote it for anyone who’s sick of their job and ready to quit and do something more meaningful but needs help making the transition without freaking out about money.

You don’t even have to give your email address to snag a copy, so there’s no reason not to head over and pick up this guide! While you’re there, check out the rest of Advanced Riskology and find Tyler on Twitter @tylertervooren.

3. Are You Thankful for Your Passions? by Dave Murray at The Way of the Murr

I met Dave rather randomly at BlogWorld 2010 – and I’m so glad I did! Not only did I have an amazing burger (seriously, it was totally yum), but we had a great conversation over dinner, and I’ve enjoyed reading his blog since then. He wrote this post in response to the idea of making a choice to pursue your passion. Not everyone has that opportunity. From the post:

Take a moment and take stock of all the amazing projects you have been part of. Write them down. Look at them. You’ve probably have done a lot more than you think. This is your passion lifeline. It shows you how your passion (or lack thereof) has dictated the path you’ve chosen.

We are all passionate about something, and these are the days of opportunities. Take your passion and make it a reality, because there has never been a better time for it to happen.

Check out The Way of the Murr for more on life and social media and follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveMurr.

4. What’s Better: Passion or Experience? by Collin Vine at The Trailblazing Life

In my opinion, passion and experience are both important if you want to be successful on any career path – but you can gain experience over time. Passion is something that you can’t learn; it comes from within you. In this post, Collin Vine talks about the two. Writes Collin:

If you want to be an entrepreneur and don’t have any experience, it doesn’t matter. Find your passion. Apply yourself. Say Fuck it. Reach out to others. Look for opportunities. Passion beats experience.

Do you agree with Collin? Head to The Trailblazing Life to read more and follow Collin on Twitter @collinvine.

5. Start with Dessert by Matthew Kimberly at How To Get A Grip

I have a confession to make. When I was compiling links for this series, I had another post I wanted to put in this spot. As I was actually writing it, though, I went back and read that first post (from a different blogger) and thought, “You know what? I don’t really know if that’s advice I want to pass on.” I’m all for debate and varying opinions, but it just didn’t sit well with me.

So left without a fifth post, I decided I was going to explore the list of blogs I have bookmarked to “check out when I have time.” You know, the list that gets ten links added to it for every one I actually check out. And I clicked on “How To Get A Grip” – a blog I first discovered because its owner, Matthew Kimberly, did an interview with BlogcastFM.

I think I’m in love. It’s puppy love, of course, just like you’ll always find at the beginning of a new relationship, but love nonetheless. And he recently posted something that I thought would be perfect to share with you all about passion. This post isn’t about going on some grand question to find your true calling in life or quitting your job to start your own business – at least, it isn’t on the surface, though you could say that those are some of the underlying messages. But really, it’s about the little things. The things that make your day happy. DO THEM. From the post:

This isn’t about hedonism, or dietary irresponsibility. Eat your greens, but if it’s a day when you’re going to have pecan pie anyway, eat it first. If you choke on your spinach, at least you’ll do it with a sugar rush and contented dessert-eating grin on your face.

You have a responsibility TO YOURSELF to make sure that your day includes a decent quota of chocolate muffins, dirty sex, brandy, rock-climbing and assorted fun stuff.

I seriously just made my roommate listen to me as I read the rest of this post aloud, along with three or four other posts from How To Get A Grip. Then he got annoyed because he was in the middle of doing stuff and I was laughing like a damn five-year-old. In other words, I think you should check out this blog, and follow @mjkimberley on Twitter.

Your turn – comment with a link to your best post about passion, tell me your thoughts on why passion is (or isn’t) important, and share your passions!

This post is part of the 12 Days of Blogging Series. The 5 Golden Rules are:

You can also check out all of the posts in this series here: 12 Days of Blogging 2010

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