Reading assignment: my rules for a blog:
You should start a blog. Here are some rules that I laid down for my GaryNorth.com subscribers.
These rules do not apply to your Curriculum weekly essays. It applies to a blog in which you are establishing yourself as an expert. If you are ever perceived as an expert, you will receive criticism. Here is how to respond.
Because of the Internet, it is now easier to respond to critics that it has ever been. I do not think it will ever get any easier than it is now. There will be marginal improvements of technology, but the big one is behind us, that it is reshaping civilization.
I always say that you should start with a website. You can start with a WordPress.com free site. If you are talking about interacting with other people with respect to their ideas, as well as your own ideas, and you are not attempting to make a commercial venture out of the site, then a free WordPress.com site is perfectly adequate. You do not need to pay for a host server, and you do not have to download the free WordPress software from WordPress.org. WordPress.com is suitable for just about everything you would want to discuss. Also, it has the advantage of being a permanent site, unlike a site that is hosted on a Web server that requires a monthly or annual payment.
There are a couple of ways to approach this site. You can make it a personal site, and that might be just what you need. It depends on how many people have criticized you. If people are targeting you, and you are interested in defending yourself, then make it a personal site. Then break up the site into those categories that most interest you. If you are being attacked in a number of different areas, have a separate category for each area. Then use each of the categories to interact with other people who have responded to your viewpoint in this particular category.
On the other hand, you could create a separate site for each category. You can keep adding free WordPress sites. If you are really devoted to a handful of topics, and you want to establish a reputation with respect to each of the topics, then I suggest going with this strategy. You may decide in a year or two that one of the categories really is not that interesting for you anymore. You can then stop adding posts in this category.
I think having a separate site for each category is the better way to go. Here is the reason: you are attempting to interact with ideas, not with particular individuals. If you respond to individuals, you are letting other people set your public agenda. Do not let other people set your public agenda. Make your case for whatever it is you believe in, and make it systematic. Add lots of articles on this topic.
Get into YouTube production if you are good in front of a camera. Get into YouTube production if all you can use is PowerPoint. Create a series of lessons that can be used by a Sunday school. You want to get wide distribution for your ideas. Do this in a systematic fashion. You should do it with video production, because videos get more views than articles do. People like videos.
Screencasts are very good for conveying information. This is what I use in my lessons on the curriculum. I use a program called Camtasia Studio to produce my screen cast. But you can also use an inexpensive program such as Screencast-O-Matic. I recommend using the premium service, which costs $15 a year. There is no advertising watermark on the videos.
In your presentations, it should be clear to the viewer or the reader that you have published extensively in the field. What he is viewing is just one small sample of what you have written. This is why you need to be ready to post at least 25 articles or videos on your site before you start interacting with anybody. It is best to have 100 videos or articles. Then you can start interacting.
I recommend not allowing comments on your site. I think flamers get in control of discussion forums on free websites. This is not a major problem with a subscription website, because the crazies are screened out whenever they see that they are going to have to pay something.
When you have a comprehensive site, which covers most of the bases, then you can begin to respond to criticisms. But the basic strategy is this: you cannot beat something with nothing. You want to have something clearly presented on the site. It should be systematic. A person should be able to see that each of the articles is part of a network of articles. There is an integrated whole, and each of the articles or videos is one component of the whole. The reader or viewer should get the sense that what he is watching or reading is a minor part of a systematic whole. Your goal here is to persuade the person that you are not shooting from the hip. You are extending a particular worldview. This is far more impressive than simply posting an article or a video on one topic, once.
When you set up the blog, have a particular audience in mind. More than this: have in your mind a particular representative of this audience. Make your presentations for this person. This will help you focus. It will also help your writing style. Never write for a committee. Well, that is not quite true; never write for a committee unless a committee is actually going to judge what you write, and write you a check if they like what you have written. But unless the committee is in a position to write you a check, pay no attention to it. Write for a specific individual who is in a position to make a decision about what he will believe, and then make a series of decisions consistent with what he believes. You are trying to change his thinking, but you are also trying to change his behavior. If he does not change his behavior, then changing his mind will not do him any good. The biblical position is this: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”
My suggestion: create a positive presentation in response to a negative critique. In other words, I would accept the challenge of answering the critique, but I would do so by a process known as backward engineering. Take the criticism seriously, and then write an article to deal with the criticism, but on the assumption that nobody had challenged you. In other words, cut the critic’s legs off at the knees. Use the criticism as a guide for writing a positive presentation. So, anybody who reads the positive presentation, and who then would read the criticism, we conclude that the critic does not know what he is talking about. He would conclude that the critic has not understood the basic point of the original article. But the original article will not in fact be an original article. It will be a response, but it will not be structured in such a way as to give credence to the critical article.
People are not interested in your debates with anybody else. Unless they have been challenged by a similar argument, they probably do not want to hear about it. But if you make a positive presentation, you will be more likely to persuade your audience of the truth you are trying to convey. They want to read something positive. Johnny Mercer had it right.
Make each of the WordPress.com sites into positive calls to action. You were calling people to commit their lives to your particular line of thought. You are after commitment. This is why I recommend the five points of persuasion:
1. Start with a text.
2. Stick to the text.
3. Get to the point.
5. Call them to commit.
5. Give them legitimate hope.
Use the critic’s challenge in order to make a stronger case for the particular idea. Then use the particular idea to make a stronger case for the comprehensive position. The entire site should be devoted to this comprehensive position.
If you are taking more than one position, produce more than one site. Each site is free. You will find that you focus a lot easier if you have one topic per site. You may decide to drop one of the sites, but you will focus on the ones you decide to keep.